“Switch Plate” by Al Ortolani

Al Ortolani


The day moves by me, and I’m still
at the same old desk that was two-wheeled
into my room by the custodian. The lights
run on some kind of motion detector.
If no one moves, let’s say, in ten minutes,
they blink out, and I have to raise my arms
and wave them like crazy. Possibly,
they click back on. Possibly, they don’t.
At this point, I have to get up and walk
the room in the dark until the shadow of me
is recognized in the recesses of the switch
plate. Once in a while I’ll have a class
of high school kids writing essays,
and the lights will suddenly black out,
and they will all look up astonished
like they’ve really done something cool.

from Hansel and Gretel Get the Word on the Street
2019 Rattle Chapbook Prize Winner


Al Ortolani: “These poems represent connections to others, sometimes dark, sometimes light, often quirky. A fellow teacher, and mentor to the poet, once said that one of the most difficult measures of the career public school teacher is their ability to stay positive and elevated by interest, if not always in the subject matter, then in the hand raised outside of the T zone.” (web)


Al Ortolani was the guest on episode 10 of the Rattlecast. Click the image to watch and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel!

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