Fall/Winter 2013

Al Ortolani


The toilet flushes. Someone
taps what sounds like a plastic
cup on the concrete floor.
Intermittent. Without rhythm.
A door opens. Closes. Chain
latches. Brass on brass. There
is no thermostat. April begs
warmth. I put on my jacket,
my pants. Pull the blanket
higher. Two pillows, one
blanket. Bed the size of
a boy’s. The city that never
sleeps. Walked up from East
Village tonight. Poems tucked
in my satchel. Unsold books
tugging like an anchor. One
old man asleep on the side-
walk. Fatigue jacket. Daffodil
hoodie. Another slumped
over his begging cup. Greased
hair dangling nearly to
the concrete. The shapeliest legs
on 1st Avenue skirt the curb―
boyfriend’s arm
draped over her shoulder.
Do not run he asks. Do not turn
to smoke. Both in black. Everyone
in black. Everyone moving
like in an artery—blood cells
racing towards a heart,
pulsing below
a fragile sternum—the city’s
breast bone fortified
with tacos, falafel, hummus.

Al Ortolani is a teacher and on the Board of Directors of the Kansas City Writers Place, for which he has recently been involved in organizing a well received Poetry and Jazz Night. His most recent book of poetry, Cooking Chili on the Day of the Dead, has just been released from Aldrich Press in California.



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