Al Ortolani



Al Ortolani


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Al Ortolani
has been a teacher in secondary education in Kansas since 1974.  He began his career in Baxter Springs, Kansas where he taught from 1974-79.  He then moved back to his hometown of Pittsburg, Kansas where he taught from 1979 to 2006.  Presently, he teaches for the Blue Valley School District in Overland Park, Kansas.  For several years, he was a member of the adjunct faculty at Pittsburg State University, and at the moment, works with Blue Valley Advanced Placement students in the College Now program offered through Johnson County Community College.  Ortolani is married to a teacher, Sherri Ortolani; they have four children, two who have entered the teaching field as well.


Ortolani's poetry has appeared in a number of journals around the country.  Including: The Kansas Quarterly, The Midwest Quarterly, Kansas English, The English Journal, Wilderness, The Cottonwood Review, The Quarterly, Aethlon: A Journal of Sport's Literature, The New York Quarterly, The Redneck Review, Poetry Motel, The Sow's Ear Poetry Review, Modern Haiku, The Laurel Review, The Little Balkan's Review, Kansas Voices and others.  He has one chapbook Slow Stirring Spoon which was published by High/Coo Press and a book of poems, The Last Hippie of Camp 50 which was published by Woodley Press.  His poems have been anthologized in Wild Song: Poems of the Natural World, edited by John Daniel and published by The University of Georgia Press. 


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The Oxbow

The old woman has oxbowed,


                and turned back upon herself

                        like a slowly drying stream.

                            Today, she sits at a small table

                            in a large room, and listens to herself


                        tell secrets. Her most important visitors

                   are the departed

                who return

                    upon mysterious invitation,

                       rising from the fathoms of her past


                                                like catfish

                                            in turbid pools, waiting

                                       the autumn rains

                                    that will again

                        connect them

                to the river.


Previously published by

The Midwest Quarterly




I was out trying a Volkswagen

for my daughter, when I see these two

coyotes dipping through the fence row

and tailing like two bullets of wind

across a green pasture.


I bounce behind the wheel

of this yellow bug, churning up the road’s dust,

thinking thoughts of rust and end play

and new bled brakes, and I know

they never lift an eye


from my noise. Well, I’d honk

and throw a hearty wave

but the horn’s dead, and the road

jogs way right

so I plow ahead. Hands at ten and two,


the sudden coyotes

two specks in a farmer’s field

and already disappearing.


Previously self-published in broadside format.







All poetry on this page
© by
Al Ortolani, 2007



Finding the Edge

You put both hands over my eyes

and walked me, scuffing leaves

through the hardwoods,

until we emerged into a clearing

unspeckled by cooling shade.


You clamped your fingers tighter

over my eye sockets, and we edged

toe to heel

up over the lens of caprock, limestone


scraping my soles. In the distance

a crow raked the silence, beating winds

filled my hair, and punched my jacket

with balloons of air.

More you said, a little, a little

and we inched, you nudging my foot

forward like a doorstop.


Then you said look and turned loose your hands.

I blinked,

wobbling on the cliff’s edge, gasping at how

the tips of my sneakers extended over the sycamores

two hundred feet below.


I rocked, swaying forward with the reel of gravity,

and I felt the tug of your hand

bunched in the middle of my jacket,

pulling me back, gently

from the treetops, which deceptive in their

bright net of leaves

were rigidly individual, defined

as clearly as the single hawk

quivering in wind drafts.

1st Place Winner in Kansas Voices Poetry Contest

Winfield, Kansas


The Day Before Winter

Leaves scatter in tight winds

while the grackle sketches a bouncing line

across the picket fence

to a place on the lawn.


There is little movement,

even among the neighbors,

who may with long, November chins

dropped to their chests

wedge a foot into the back door

and with a tip of a broom


sweep yesterday down the steps.


Previously published in
The Little Balkan's Review

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