Two Poems by Al Ortolani

The Big Gray

I usually picture November
as the gray month. That’s not meant
to sound negative, since I like gray,

a soothing color, cool to touch, slightly
turned towards the inner voice, the indoors
of long nights, early suppers,

an old movie on Turner, reading
before the lights go out. In November
there is more time for sitting

at the window, watching squirrels
running across the top of the fence,
leaping from roof to limb.

With that thought, I am happy
to drink coffee with nowhere to go,
to forget the noise of bright flowers,

the rush to save, to put up tomatoes
as a symbol, a harvest ritual
if we’re ready, if we’re lucky.


Acorns on All Saints Day

You walk through the woods,
shuffling leaves like fallen days.

You see more through the trees
than you have since early spring,
the rise of hill, the spur of limestone,
squirrels nesting in high oaks.

Game trails reveal themselves
winding between branches, briar,
and windfall. There’s a place
for you in change, feathers

between trees, acorns
dropping like rain. A longing for
all you’ve loved reaches beyond
your farthest step, almost further

than hope, the moving sap,
the constant heartwood.


Al Ortolani’s most recent poetry collection, The Taco Boat, has just been released from New York Quarterly Books. Individual poems have appeared in journals such as Prairie Schooner, Rattle, New Letters, and the Chiron Review. He currently lives in the Kansas City area with his wife Sherri and a Zen Buddhist dog named Stanley. The dog meditates in a full corpse pose between treats.

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