“Paper Birds Don’t Fly” by Al Ortolani

Al Ortolani


Last night I had a dream
that my father, six years
dead now, left me a message
folded into some kind of origami bird.
There was a girl in the dream,
maybe a younger sister, maybe
a little dead girl sent as a messenger.
I don’t know how these things worked.
Sitting at the table with the paper birds,
she unfolded mine and began to read.
I couldn’t make out a word
she was saying.
I woke in frustration, trying to will
myself back into sleep
into the dream of my father
where I was sure he’d tried
to cross over
like he had so many times
when he was living.

from Rattle #51, Spring 2016


Al Ortolani: “I started writing poetry after I’d quit football in high school. I’d lock myself in the bathroom and write on the floor where I wouldn’t be interrupted by my younger siblings. Usually, I wrote about unrequited love because somebody important said we should write about what we know. I didn’t know how typical I was.” (web)

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