Entering the Auction Barn by Al Ortolani

Entering the Auction Barn

There’s no place left to sit in the auction barn.
One woman has her coat next to her on a chair.
She’s either saving it for someone, or keeping it
for herself as a safe space. A man with a wool cap
and a black Patagonia coat comes in out of the cold,
stamps his feet free of last week’s snow. He sizes
up the room, the auctioneer’s ring worker, holding
a flintlock. The auctioneer chants, hunting
for the first bite. The man, tilts the brim of his cap,
raises his hand. A trio of bids follow.
The man in the Patagonia walks to the woman
and leans to her ear. She moves her coat to her lap.
He slides the chair to the front of the auction barn,
motions to see the rifle. He examines the stock,
the brass lock plate, the frozen trigger. He shakes
his head no, waves it away. The auctioneer
moves on to the back of the barn.
The man unzips his coat, pulls it away from his chest,
and extends his legs easily into the aisle.


Al Ortolani’s poetry has appeared in journals such as Rattle, poetrybay, New York Quarterly, and Prairie Schooner. His most recent collections are The Taco Boat, released from New York Quarterly Books in 2022, and Swimming Shelter which was named a Kansas Notable Book for 2021 by the Kansas Library Association. Ortolani is the Manuscript Editor for Woodley Press in Topeka, Kansas, and has directed a memoir writing project for Vietnam veterans across Kansas in association with the Library of Congress and Humanities Kansas. He lives in the Kansas City area with his wife and Zen Buddhist dog, Stanley.

Leave a Reply