“Leaf Removal” by Al Ortolani

Al Ortolani


I listen to my wife on the phone
explaining to Leaf Removal, Inc. 
how we just can’t 
pick up the leaves anymore.
It’s getting to that point she says
that we need someone, which really
isn’t true because we could slide
down the hill on our heels, rake
the leaves into piles, douse them
with charcoal lighter, and set
them ablaze. Then we’d just need
a metal tined rake to lean on,
a little luck to keep the house
from going up in flames, and with
the garden hose uncoiled, nozzle
dribbling like a mouth, watch
last year turn to smoke, 
a slip, an ass tumble. Instead, 
two rabbits leap out of the leaves,
zig zagging ahead of the dog
who forever believes he’s a hunter
with sharp white teeth and 
the speed to stay stride for stride
with the memory of himself.

from Rattle #82, Winter 2023


Al Ortolani: “Lately, whenever I invoke the Muse for inspiration, she gives me poems from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. Way back to childhood. Even if I don’t want to go in this direction, since the past is the past, old hat as they say, I know that rejecting the Muse can end up in something like poetic impotence. So I follow her lead, and dig around through images I should have sold at garage sales. Probably, there’s a lesson here about knowing thyself, remembering and learning, even when you’ve tried to forget.” (web)

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