Late at night, when most have
taken to their beds, he coasts eighth street
on the slowest bicycle in town. Without
central air, the doors and windows
are open for whatever breeze
is free. He recognizes the regulars,
sweating in lumpy chairs, following
the blue roll of Late Night on television,
others are little more than a shadow,
a cigarette rising at midnight.
He knows who cannot sleep,
who waits for a lifting wind,
a thunder storm, a police siren, a bottle
breaking on a curb. In the shotgun house
on the corner, a woman steps to her
front door in nothing but a man’s shirt.
She cups her hands to her face
and looks into the street. He circles
the block back to her house,
but the door is now closed.
The window lit
by a lamp with a faded yellow shade.
Al Ortolani was born in Huntington, New York and grew up in Pittsburg, Kansas. He was educated at Pittsburg State University and for the past 41 years has taught in Kansas schools in Baxter Springs, Pittsburg and Overland Park (Blue Valley) as well as an adjunct at Pittsburg State University. He is the author of six collections of poetry, including Paper Birds Donít Fly (NYQ, í16)