“The Taco Boat” by Al Ortolani

Al Ortolani


Last night, I bought a 12-pack of tacos
at Taco Bell, not because I was 
especially hungry, but because I could. 
My ship had come in, you see, 
and for once, I was rolling in it.
I ate six of them in front of the television
while bingeing on episodes
of some Netflix series, not because
it was particularly engaging, but simply
because I could. My ship, if you recall,
had come in. I packed up the other six tacos
and brought them to work for lunch
where my fellow employees marveled,
or laughed, I couldn’t tell which, at
my ability to eat six soggy tortillas,
microwaved in their wrappers, and spread
like dollar bills on the table. I gave
one to a friend, and she was happy,
happy for the taco, happy for me,
happy for everyone who waited
for a boat, any boat, to come in.

from Rattle #57, Fall 2017


Al Ortolani: “I became interested in Emmett Kelly recently, and as I was ‘surfing’ his life, I ran into a picture of him in full Weary Willie costume trying to put out flames at the Hartford Circus Fire in 1944. I had already started the poem from a sort of Everyman position, but I worked into an Emmett Kelly as archetype poem, one that was not about the fire in particular, but about the ‘funny man’ decompressing at the end of a day. I think it relates to most of us as we leave behind our ‘public face.’ In general I find poems in little moments. Small moments, maybe profound, but probably as ubiquitous as dogs behind a chain-link fence. I like the idea of opening the gate, so I can step in closer to see if they lick my hand, or bite my ass. Mostly, they’re good guys, but not too keen on playing dead or begging for treats.” (web)

Rattle Logo