“Butterfly Valve” by Al Ortolani

Al Ortolani


Wiring the exhaust pipe
to the frame of the truck
is a skill I learned from my father.
He could keep a piece of shit
Ford or Chevy or Plymouth
running without repairs
longer than anyone I knew.
It was kind of a gift to himself,
keeping cash from the mechanic
for as long as possible. He’d
make do with a leaking gas tank
by not topping it off, or avoid
a 60 mile per hour
front end shimmy by driving 55.
As his children moved away
into lives of their own, the money
ran more freely. He gave up
lying on the street with
his shoulders wedged under
the chassis. He scheduled
regular automobile check-ups
where he’d sit out in the shop
with the wrench turners
and tell stories about how
he used to keep his junkers
running with bailing wire, heated
with cardboard in front
of the radiator, ignited with ether,
a screwdriver wedged
in the throat of the carburetor.

from Rattle #62, Winter 2018


Al Ortolani: “Now that I’m retired, I have more time for writing. However, I’ve found myself digging through estate sales and auction boxes, looking for something for Antiques Roadshow or Pawn Stars or American Pickers. Mostly, I’ve come to the conclusion that writing poetry is much the same for me. I polish an old pocket watch or dust off a photograph of someone’s aunt. Sometimes I just laugh at the things we’ve saved.” (web)

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