A L O R T O L A N I | Monsoon 2014
Waiting for Word on a Friend’s Health
on a Night with Crepe Myrtle
Nothing else is fired with bloom
in August, except the memory I have
of you tossing a baseball
high into Sander’s elm, ricocheting,
the ball drops unseen through the branches
to an outfield of boys below,
each vying to make the catch, searching
the branches, the leaves, the round shadow--
circling under the ball by sound alone.
And now this cell phone erupts, blinds me
in the darkness, it’s blue screen
brighter than the moon, the myrtle--
the blood inside an eardrum.
Rain hangs over Cherokee County.
A boy with a sleeveless shirt
steps from the weight room, swaggers
easily across the parking lot,
his arms pumped like two clouds.
Far to the south the tree line
is held in mist. The rolling hills
fold one layer over the next.
A school bus chugs up the blacktop,
a face in each window, peering
into the woods, the tangled weekend,
vines and bracken, stories
told to frighten children.
The cool air eases into the room
like the suggestion of sex, erotic
as the poppy’s paste—the night’s
funk, feral as a deer, buck in the sumac,
rut-felt, antler velvet. A light in the back
bedroom—he reads Heinlein, Asimov,
Bradbury. A motorcycle on Rouse,
a faraway train—the quiet trees
spread like umbrellas on the lawn.
Indian summer—moths tap the screen,
resin-coated wings beating wire mesh,
the flashing cherries of the police
a mile out on Highway 7.
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.