Poetry of Kansas Here & Now, There & Then

Posts tagged ‘Al Ortolani’

Lennon and McCartney on Santa Fe Road by Al Ortolani

bio photo 2The boomers return to the roadhouse

to dance to the Beatles. They gyrate through

“Twist and Shout” and “Day Tripper.”

Few manage the floor for more than two

or three songs. They return to their canned beer,

flushed, sucking air like tread-millers

after a cardiac exam. There are moments

in the blue neon when they glimpse each other again,

sweating to an electric guitar, the thump

of the Ludwig, the band superimposed

against a newsreel of missiles—rising

like poems from submarines.

These were the children, hidden below

school desks, arms folded above their heads

in a looping number 9. They dance

hard tonight to the old songs, the highway

through the bean fields winding homeward

between “Let It Be” and “Imagine.”

~ Al Ortolani

Al Ortolani’s poetry and reviews have appeared in journals such as Prairie Schooner, New Letters, Word Riot, and the New York Quarterly. He has four books of poetry, The Last Hippie of Camp 50 and Finding the Edge, published by Woodley Press at Washburn University, Wren’s House, published by Coal City Press in Lawrence, Kansas, and Cooking Chili on the Day of the Dead from Aldrich Press in Torrance, California. His fifth book, Waving Mustard in Surrender, will be released by New York Quarterly Books later in 2014. He is on the Board of Directors of the Kansas City Writers Place and is an editor with The Little Balkans Review.

Guest editor: Kevin Rabas co-directs the creative writing program at Emporia State and co-edits Flint Hills Review. He has four books: Bird’s Horn, Lisa’s Flying Electric Piano, a Kansas Notable Book and Nelson Poetry Book Award winner, Sonny Kenner’s Red Guitar, also a Nelson Poetry Book Award winner, and Spider Face: stories. He writes, “For my month, I searched for poems that meditate on “time” in its many musical nuances, such as in times a tune jogged your memory, times the music seemed to transport you in time, times you patted your foot or danced to the music’s groove (time), times the music jump-started your heart (internal time), OR meditations on musical elements (such as 4/4 time vs. 6/8 time OR swung vs. straight, rock 2+4 time).”

Willows by Al Ortolani

when willows shoot out overbio photo 2

any road, this is love,

the way it begins and ends

in places you never wanted

or expected,

and how it winds up

getting in the way,

or lashes back when you’ve forgotten

to duck.

Then there’s the one day you get tired

and you both try to break it off,

but you know how willows bend

and one branch gone

leaves another thousand, so

by the time the last one’s broken

the first one’s grown back

and there you have it

−love and willows.

~ Al Ortolani

Al Ortolani is a public school teacher. His poetry and reviews have appeared in journals such as New Letters, The Midwest Quarterly, The English Journal and the New York Quarterly. He has three books of poetry, The Last Hippie of Camp 50 and Finding the Edge, published by Woodley Press at Washburn University and Wren’s House, published by Coal City Press in Lawrence, Kansas. His newest collection, Cooking Chili on the Day of the Dead, will be published by Aldrich Press in 2013. He is an editor for The Little Balkans Review and works closely with the Kansas City Writer’s Place.

Previously Published in The Windless Orchard

21. To the Stars Through Difficulty: Al Ortolani

A hiker sets his Minolta on the stone
fence. In February’s mist, cloud
within cloud, silence
is like a feather in the grass,
as much a part of the earth as of the sky.
He picks up his camera and unsnaps
the lens cap. Somewhere today
there is a photograph, a doe retreating,
an image connecting the distant hawk
to the fletching of his heart.
–Al Ortolani

77. Summer Storm Among the Strip Pits

I have parked on a dump that overlooks

the water. Kingfishers slap surface,

dip and cut wide figure eights, lifting

like flapping hands into the sky.

Rain comes, peppering the surface

like thousands of winged insects, tapping

light fingers against the roof of my van.

Curtains blow. From the tops of poplars

I hear the wind moan, turning the alkali

over upon itself, the clay mixing

with gray shale, trickling

down from the tailings. The small soil

that runs between roots of a willow

clouds the vacant water

and spreads like the spawn of fish.

– Al Ortolani

Al Ortolani has been teaching in Kansas for 37 years. His poetry has appeared in the Midwest Quarterly, The English Journal, The Laurel Review and others. His second book of poetry Finding the Edge will be published by Woodley Press in 2011. He is currently co-editor of The Little Balkans Review.

25. Reading William Stafford in a Snowstorm

His lines are plowed evenly,

Yet I can seldom predict

Where they will break into drifts.

Here by the bookshelf

Then there by the window

And last, by the blown-open door

Where suddenly I am falling

With the wild driving snow to

Some dark road in Kansas

Which in narrowing its shoulders

To a footpath

Catches me

Shallow like a snow angel, then

Sinking deeper in

The great, cold billows, I find depths

Made for burrowing

Snow caves

Beneath the howling night.

— Al Ortolani

Al Ortolani has been teaching in Kansas for 37 years. His poetry has appeared in the Midwest Quarterly, The English Journal, The Laurel Review and others. His second book of poetry Finding the Edge will be published by Woodley Press in 2011. He is currently co-editor of The Little Balkans Review.

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