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Matt Cariello

Matt Cariello’s most recent book, The Empty Field, was published in 2022 by Red Moon Press. His first two collections of poems, A Boat That Can Carry Two and Talk were published by Bordighera Press. He’s had stories, poems, haiku, and reviews published in Bennington Review, Voices in Italian Americana, Poet Lore, Ovunque Siamo, Evening Street Review, Modern Haiku, Frogpond, The Heron’s Nest, The Long Story, Indiana Review, The Ekphrastic Review, Italian Americana, Modern Poetry Quarterly Review, Typehouse, and The Journal. He’s currently a senior lecturer in the English department at the Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.

Pinking Shears

Because there are more ways
to shuffle a deck of cards

than there are stars in the universe,
my mother leaned over the wooden table

with her black-handled pinking shears
and traced the outline of a Vogue pattern

she’d pinned to the fabric.
Why the zig zag? I asked,

listening to the meticulous movement
of the scissors, the thrum of the cut

through the wood of the table, each stroke
separating what was from what is.

So the fabric doesn’t fray,
she said. The little strings,

they hold together, won’t unravel
if you cut them right. I didn’t yet know

what I didn’t know: the way everything
is sprung with a seam on the verge

of slipping, how we’re bound invisibly
to chance and accident. Let me see

the pattern emerge through the oblique
lines of the shears. Let me see the way

edges that bleed but don’t tear
make something new and useful.

I have no idea what she was making.
Just the vibrating drum of the cut

resounding through the wood of the table–
a song that’s the sound of stars,

dealt seriatim, burning, then flickering,
then fading, always out of time.

The Red Salamander

You can’t find them. Then one is there.
The way you see is the way you see you see.

I’m upset by words and how they scratch
to be let in, by the twists of the story itself.

The red shadowed leaves, on the walk
or grass, begging for currency. Or how

we found the fiddler Alex three days running,
once up on the bridge in the park, once below,

then busking in the subway by the museum.
And you, my soul, as Whitman said, filament,

filament cast from the ceaselessly musing spider
that carefully crafts the flex that opens the mouth

singing, singing, singing, singing, singing–
the red salamander flees the burgeoning wood.

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