Download PDF Here Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Volume One Sept-October 2022.
Recycling, poems by Anthony DiMatteo
She looks at me strange when I yell out
“Mazel tov.” “Y’all right there?” she shouts back,
thinking a shard of glass has struck me.
“I’m fine. It feels like something to celebrate
when a bottle smashes.” “Oh, ok, I thought
you said, ‘my eye’s popped’?” “No,
mazel tov. Jewish phrase for good luck.”
The look on her face tells me she’s puzzled,
never having heard the expression
or wondering why I’d say it breaking bottles
or both. We’re at the recycle center,
alone in the dead heat of August.
I’m a transplant from New York, she’s
a native of the Outer Banks. “Yup, lived here
all my life,” she tells me, squeezing hard
on her trash picker. “I’ve picked up all kinds
of stuff that got no place in our bins,
from diapers to a bucket of dead fish.”
“Well, now you’ve picked up a new phrase
that deserves recycling,” I tell her
with a laugh. “Oh, that’s right, my old stuff.
Isn’t that what you said?” “Close enough.
And good luck to you.” “Oh, to you too.”
I’m pumping gas, and these two crows
high on a lamppost just above me
caw in tandem, first one, then the other,
pumping up and down, jaunty as if
mocking me for needing fuel when all
they need to do is spread their wings
and take off but they don’t. Like pistons,
up and down, they caw, first one, then
the other, and then others across the way
answering back. Beneath their lofty sight
I am reduced and mocked though I know
it is arrogant to think they give a damn
about us except for what we leave behind
when we leave. They are smart, no doubt.
I’ve seen one use a leaf for a sled
to slide down the snow on a pitched roof
again and again, carrying the leaf
back up like a driver’s license and then
surfing on the snow. And we thought
we’ve inherited the earth, caretakers.
We should know better, that the earth
will take care of us one way or the other.
When I put the pump back in its slot,
the crows take off as if I’m no longer
at their merciless mock. Behind the wheel,
I feel how weak we are to depend
on so much when it must be far better
just to lift one’s wings and take off. How sweet
it must be to see us from above,
to go as high as one needs to silence
whatever we’re doing, with all those trees
a possible perch from which to laugh or mock
how we have only the one road ahead,
eyes glued behind a streaky windshield,
not the vista that sees at a glance
what’s coming, what’s going while knowing
at some point we’ll leave it all behind.
If there’s any one thing I want
it’s a soul. Each Christmas or birthday
I mistakenly hope to find it wrapped,
cut to my size, in the exact color
that go with my eyes, russet brown
as seen dimly through trees at sunset.
It would be pulsing out of the box
waiting to stretch its long beautiful neck
like a flamingo cramped for too long.
But then I recall many books say
the soul is what one gives away,
never to be hemmed in or hoarded,
hopeless in its attempts to put
a smile of thanks on someone’s face.
So I make sure there’s one on mine
no matter the neon socks or tight pants
I receive, reminding me I’m not
a child anymore and two sizes bigger
than I was last year. Yes, my arms
stretch wide, making a little harbor
for the giver’s soul to rest, hoping
mine can find asylum in return.
For James Lloyd Davis
The old man, dying, dreamt
he was a young man again,
a boxer looking to spar.
No one showed up, half
good-bye, half affirmation.
He woke that morning
to where the pain led him
back. He can see his life
in a single span of time
like no time before. That
was a gift the dream granted,
both salute and farewell.
Seeking beauty, she becomes beautiful.
Forms rise up to greet her, subtle
her work as clouds or stars. A grackle,
finch and sparrows scatter before her.
A mockingbird stays. She ponders why.
She knows the bird knows its powers
to flee at any time, a freedom
denied her from the children she’s raised.
Her seeking, beautiful, is always one
step behind the one she cannot take.
It’s not towards a mirror, her lifelong
belief, no beauty ever courted,
only found and always on the wing.
© Anthony DiMatteo
Anthony DiMatteo has been defending writing, art and literature for over thirty years at the New York Institute of Technology where he is a professor English. His poems have recently appeared in the American Journal of Poetry, Cimarron Review, Connecticut River Review and North Dakota Quarterly. His latest book In Defense of Puppets explores the way we imagine things when we speak for others or they for us. A recent chapbook Fishing for Family charts the experience of language from infancy to senescence. His third book Secret Offices, forthcoming from Kelsay Press, regards a lifelong search for beauty and grace, a paradoxical quest because one never quite knows what one is doing in such a venture, a realization required for moving ahead. Please feel free to leave a trace at his e-tent: https://anthonydimatteo.wordpress.com