Poetry of Love, Resistance, & Solidarity

Posts tagged ‘Al Ortalani’

Margaret Youvan — by J.T. Knoll

I had a lifetime penchant for clipping and saving whatever suited my fancy from the newspaper, starting at fifteen with my grandmother’s obituary notice. Lately, Tyson biting off a piece of Holyfield’s ear, Clinton’s Whitewater troubles, a beauty shop expanding to a full-service salon, Frontenac High School football games, lots of local wedding and anniversary announcements and, of course, obituaries. While I was living up in Kansas City, I collected song lyrics by jotting them down on scraps of paper at work, then transcribing them longhand into books — 15 all told. You might remember I mixed sodas and malts with Gertie behind the marble counter at Fedell’s Drug Store in the 1950s. For five years before Fedell’s, I took care of my bedridden mother. Once I forgot some anniversary or birthday and told her I was sorry — that I should have bought her some flowers. “You don’t need to buy me no flowers, Margaret,” she said. “You’re my flower.”

~ J. T. Knoll

T. Knoll,a native of the Republic of Frontenac, Kansas, is a counselor, prize-winning newspaper columnist, poet and speaker. Ghost Sign, his recent collaboration with three other Southeast Kansas poets, was selected as a 2017 Kansas Notable Book. His poetry has appeared in numerous publications and has been featured on Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac. He lives in Pittsburg on Euclid’s Curve, with his wife, Linda, and dog, Arlo the Labradorean.

Al Ortolani’s poetry has appeared in journals such as Rattle, Prairie Schooner, and Tar River Poetry. His collection, Paper Birds Don’t Fly, was released in 2016 from New York Quarterly Books. Ghost Sign, a collaborative work, was released in 2017 from Spartan Press in Kansas City. It was named a 2017 Kansas Notable Book. His poems been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, and he has been featured on the Writer’s Almanac by Garrison Keillor. Ortolani serves on the Board of the Little Balkans Press and Woodley Press. He has also been a member of the Board of Directors of the Writers Place in Kansas City. Recently, he retired after teaching for 43 years in Kansas. He’s sometimes trips going up or down curbs. He once said that if he didn’t laugh at himself, someone else would beat him to it.


Good Housekeeping by Melissa Fite Johnson

I.Bio pic

The mother of my childhood

is propped up by the vacuum handle.

Her arms disappear at the ends

into filmy sink water.

She scrubs the kitchen floor the hard way,

sponge instead of mop. She’s tired.


She won’t stop

my father’s cancer from sweeping

through our tidy lives,

but she is armed

with spray bottles and paper towels.



My father’s smoking

transformed the bathroom vent

from flute smooth to caked fireplace ash.

I pictured his lungs changing texture,

his heart no longer a red flame

but the doused black matchstick.


I tried hiding his cigarettes.

He always found them. Eventually,

I learned the joy my mother took in controlling

what could be. I polished the vent

with a pretty white cloth,

tenderly as she did her collection of tea spoons.

~ Melissa Fite Johnson

Melissa Fite Johnson teaches English at Pittsburg High School in Kansas. She’s had poetry published in magazines such as Sotto Voce, The Little Balkans Review, and Inscape Magazine, and in a Kansas Notable Book poetry collection To the Stars Through Difficulties. The Little Balkans Press will publish her first book of poetry, While the Kettle’s On, this year. Melissa and her husband, Marc, live in Pittsburg with their dog and several chickens.

Al Ortolani’s poetry and reviews have appeared in journals such as Prairie Schooner, New Letters, Word Riot, and the New York Quarterly. His fifth collection of poems, Waving Mustard in Surrender, was released in 2014 from New York Quarterly Books. Currently, he is teaching English in the Blue Valley School District and serves on the Board of Directors of the Kansas City Writers Place.

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