Issue 14

Poetry: Anthony DiMatteo

A Square Inch

A square inch of wilderness
is a beautiful problem.

Over it, the one and the many
fight for dominance.

Entire nations stake it out
though it escapes their borders.

It demands a truce
in the silence inside us.

Honey pours from its parched lips.
One taste haunts a lifetime.

I love to float in it
at the bottom of an emptied cup.

It leers out of distant places,
in the crumpled mountain of bed sheets.

It is happy to drift out
between dock and boat.

Some look out upon it
and see only no zone.

It is as dangerous as love
to which it opens a path.

Lingering on its sill,
clouds invite us to tramp.

But then a door is shut
against the garden untended.

And we are lost at the edge
of a vanished love.

Walls close in with do’s and don’ts.
Dreams enter the deadest calm.

Fear is to look back
at the forest turned lot.

Where has the asylum gone?
I stand on the other side of silence.

Each hope, a bird at dawn,
turns in wings for a shawl.

A square inch of wilderness
burns through one’s pocket.

Eludes the barbed wire
that marks its limit.

It’s a lucky charm between fingers,
a worry bead, a cinder.

Blow on it, a piece of the night
aglow with stars. A square inch

of wilderness promises
paradise, burns a hole

in any love you covet
but do not yield. A square

inch of wild will sink the boat or
lodge in the crevasse of a heart.

One must light a candle in it
to know what light means.

It sends out a flare in us
when we have lost it.

We swap our square inch
in stories over a fire.

Smother it? It turns into
a river. Channel it?

It runs off to the high desert
with Elvis. Speakers of conquest

will hear it get the last laugh
as desire escapes their bed.

Try to measure out an inch of it?
It warps the ruler and bends the man.

Nor can we say in the end
that’s all we have. It’s what we’ll be.

A square inch of wilderness
turns to dust in any hand.

No Words But In Water

There’s no buffalo in Buffalo –
was there ever? – and no elms
on Elm Street though before the Dutch
fungus first found in Ohio, they flourished.
Does the microbe know it’s named after
a people who followed a colonialist path?

On the other hand, the woman named Joy
is delightful and Cheryl too
cherishes life. But Frank pays lip service
while Rose is always droopy.

O what’s in a name? Sun motes? Destiny?

I named one dog Spenser and my next one
Milton just as the latter followed the former.
The first likes short walks and long naps
like a plot that meanders and the second
with saggy ears and high spirit rides
Spenser’s back and digs holes in my garden.

I have forgotten half the names
of the roses I bought and planted
though their petals sort beauty out
like a busy cashier that knows
nothing of the price.

Words float back and forth
across the prow of our lives
to mark a grave or bless a course.
Many find no rest in the ocean
of meaning where, once arrived,
they can be forgotten.

People say “see what I mean,”
as if they were pointing to their shoes
hoping the words they have used
have not left them high and dry.
But words are not slippers or boots.

I call out among the last roses
three persons I knew who shared the name
Linda and two who shared the name Jane,
one of whom nobly struggled all her life
with the loss of her childhood,
understanding that death as practice
for the annihilation she has suffered since.

Though there is no now for those who are not,
I sometimes forget which ones are which
and laugh at the words absence
and nothingness floating
on the rising tide beneath them.

I remain thankful at least the rose
knows not it is the season’s last.