CladeSong, Cortland Review, Hunger Mountain, Los Angeles Review, and
UCity Review. His current book of poems In Defense of Puppets has been hailed as,
“a rare collection, establishing a stunningly new poetic and challenging the traditions that
DiMatteo (as Renaissance scholar) claims give the poet ‘the last word'”(Cider Press
For three days these mountains
have watched me. I have asked
the two of them nothing, afraid
of the ashes in my mouth.
Sometimes I wander near.
They disappear, their iron glare
looming above hemlocks,
that one with the broken face
or the neighbor who rolls away
from the ugliness of his mate,
rising up like whipped cream
to a fabulous point. Now
it seems to sleep curled into
its crown in total ease,
its million year domain.
The riven one is never restless
nor does it rest, but there it is,
not nothing, its cleft so deep
once dealt – was it a meteor? –
it’s become silent as death.
And what of the canyon between them,
formed out of nothing, chorus
of absence binding all three
in a friendship as old as stars?
From inside the dark hollow
of a mouth, we make a world
from water, breath, and words,
but no route to escape or hide
from a mountain’s penetrant gaze.
My call fades out like gravel
in the canyon’s ripping stream.
It will outlast all we know.
Living for Two
You’re inside my pocket now.
Lovely tree or sweet birdsong?
I take you out to hear it.
Through me you still have
being, self, soul.
Look how silent the bay
beneath wintry clouds.
You shudder in the cold.
Your eyes light up. I hear
waters lap, and you’re gone.
You told me to live for two.
I do, then walk back alone.
Fated to be without you,
I will never let you go.
You’re inside me now,
a last respite of home.
Lost Friend (To J. V.)
You are not in the room with my dead mother
who sees the seeking in my eyes. She says,
“You have lost a friend but not friendship.”
And then she disappears. The waters of memory
flood through the windows, and we walk
high up in the Rockies on the way to Crystal Lake.
The snowed-under pass proves impassable.
We find beneath towering sugar pine
a dry spot and pitch camp. You make a fire
as I wander about plateaus of rock
for a last view. I look back to where
far off you sit like Buddha, the fire
crackling as the night comes down.
I wave back but you do not see or do not
wave back. The mountain still holds
the answer. I use your fire to return,
a point of light reaching out of gloom.
You smile: “There is no place I’d rather be.”
And I say: “Part of us will never leave.”
We laugh. We drink in the silence
that still floods my dreams. A perfect
moment we shared, earned together
after a hard trail. The silence told us
why we came there. I did not know then
how the dead speak to the living inside it.
Nor did I foresee your silence would grow
so different from mine. My calling out
faded away before a mountain’s wall,
whose stone you mimicked by the fire then,
only to become one to me, my lost friend.
This is what she meant: friendship burns within.
Not Better Late
On the morning of my resurrection,
I wander streets never seen before,
with little cottages against the sea
immense and lovely to look at alone.
I walk among pansies, chase a newt,
press up against a window to see if
anyone is home where the water runs
in a yellow sink. But no one is there
who knows my name or can be seen
at this early hour when birds mull about
on lawns for the cool dew. I despair
of eating but recall I have no hunger
except for lingering where white linen
left out all night hangs heavy on the line.
A thought stops me in my airy tracks –
how you held me and folded over me
so that I never wanted to die.
Now I have no way to promise you this.