Anthony DiMatteo







Les Mots et les Choses


It is in vain that we say what we see.

– Michel Foucault


The tower does not know it’s a tower.

It just towers over itself, looking down

at the river where the lovers hide at night.


In the day, they’ll strew flowers on stone floors

and words will fly out of their mouths

like flounders loose in a small boat.


But now their kiss bestows silence

the way the tower towers.

In secret they are one, petals in a stream…






“More like the sitter than the sitter herself,”

Raphael declared of a Lippi Madonna.

The living may seek their own perfection

but never find, the painter implied,

the way a mother cannot hold a child

close enough to keep it from all harm

though that be a woman’s deepest desire.

The sun would never glare in her child’s eye,

for she?  She would never look away.


But Maria, Madonna’s model, is hungry

and imagining pears, with none like

herself seeing herself in any way

than what she is, at least in her own eyes.

Where else would art find its light

to launch itself above our shade

than in a beauty bound to be nevermore,

with nothing else like it when it lived?


Lines etch themselves beneath our eyes.

Art though in lines finds no such doom

once freed from the tomb of the artist’s hands.

It photoshops a shadow in the blank march

of days that flicker by us on our way,

a flock of birds frozen in the sky,

a sun blinding us by other means.


Sometimes we see the fatty hand of art

loom over the hand, or a portrait

not with the gait of any man that lived, a limp counterfeit of humanity,

as Hamlet says. Sometimes we awake

to find we’ve been actors in our own skin.

That’s when death or love throws out art,


and we find ourselves sitting in a park

on a cold slab crying hot tears,

a sad clown, our mascara dripping,

or frozen like a stone, freed by death

from having to act another’s part.

Will we care then if nobody comes by

to offer a word, remark on how we look,

place a flower just so turned to the light?

It could be a common one, not even bought,

a violet plucked from a garden where a crow

seemed to mock our hand for its secret theft.




Black Day – April 20, 1989

(from In Defense of Puppets)


For me, that Thursday, the hundredth

anniversary of Hitler’s birth, proved

blacker than any night I had known.

It was the day after the Central Park jogger

was left for dead, the alleged black males

no more than a bunch of boys. My sister

about to graduate from a Catholic college

wanted them hanged even after their ages

were disclosed. She made this big gesture.


I could not control my tongue, broke

the silence of a parliament of heads

nodding in agreement. “But they’re

only wild kids maybe and you want

strange fruit in the park? Is this

the fruit of your education?” I asked.

“How dare you…” she said. Our father stood up.


“So if they had raped your sister

You’d— what?—let them live

there in the group home with you, right?

What kind of a man are you?

You’re my fruitcake for a son.”

My mother tried to calm my father

and brother down. “Please go now,”

she said to me, “let’s not have trouble.”


“Have a nice day, everyone,”

I said, not quite at the top

of my lungs. On the drive home,

I lost the road when the moon

rose bravely in the night.


How little the void between stars

when compared to glaring space

between thoughts, the inky luster

of a pool where souls are drowned,

where a garden of death takes root

and a tree offers its blackening fruit.


My car veered onto the shoulder,

slipping down a bank of fatal thoughts

and their highways, their myriad

branches that shadow us together,

hang us down from the sky,

white, then gray clouds turning black.


If there is such a thing as the root

of evil I’d have to spit it out

of my own mouth. I’d have

to hunt down the very taste of it

in everything I eat, the scent of it

in everyone I love. Do I have

the strength to resist the sleekness

of its alluring crush upon

my palette, at the very table

where I break bread, the flowers

of its wiliness, words that cook life

in the slow simmer of a blind sun?


Forgive us, O sun of the morning,

should we forget to bless your daily race

different in kind from our rat race.

Keep us from despair,

benighted by the love of it.

Your light makes all mankind shimmer

though we hide behind a skin

made of mind you cannot burn.












Anthony DiMatteo is the author of three recent poetry collections – In Defense of Puppets (Future Cycle Press, 2016), Greetings from Elysium (Finishing Line Press, 2015) and Beautiful Problems (David Robert Books, 2014). A lifelong resident of the New York metropolitan area, he was very fortunate to work as a live-in group home supervisor of ten boys for ten years, an experience that altered his life and that forms the focus of his present project, a non-fiction novel entitled Home Boys. Now he lives happily on Long Island with the interior designer and classical pianist Kathleen O’Sullivan, their thirteen-year old son Michael, a dog, and a lion-headed rabbit. He defends the mysteries of writing, literature, and art at the New York Institute of Technology where he is a professor of English. Please feel free to leave a trace at his e-tent:

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