Monday, 9 July 2018

A poem by Al Ortolani

Wally Sings Amazing Grace in an Arkansas Cave

The old timers drew
arrows with carbide smoke
to mark their return.
Two caves, they used
to say, one going in,
one going out.

You stop for granola,
raisins, apple slices.
You wander the deep transept,
searching the source
of breeze on your cheek,
hunting new cave, tight
spots, wiggle room.
The darkness becomes
more personal, pressing—
brown bat, albino fish,
blind to sun.
Wally begins Amazing Grace.
The rope of his voice
belayed through the darkness
like a bowline at your waist—
the mist in your lamp,
the scalloped walls
curving on.

When you leave work today,
you walk through snow melt,
your truck parked at the bottom
of the corporate lot. Gray drifts
run in small creeks to the
gutter. At the storm drain,
the water sluices through
concrete to a distant spillway.
This too is cave, piped below
the streets, subterranean,
serene, even rat trod,
it’s a river to the sea.

Al Ortolani’s poetry has appeared in journals such as Rattle, Prairie Schooner, and Tar River Poetry. His newest collection, On the Chicopee Spur, will be released from New York Quarterly Books in April of 2018. Ortolani is the Manuscript Editor for Woodley Press in Topeka, Kansas, and directs a memoir writing project for Vietnam veterans across Kansas in association with the Library of Congress and Humanities Kansas.

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