“Yellow Bees” by Al Ortolani

Al Ortolani


I bring the second-grade baseball
team bubble gum, two bags of it.
I open the sacks and dump the pieces
into a single brown grocery sack.
I leave it on the dugout bench
and get out of the way, back to the
lawn chair under the single elm.
Moments later, when the first batter
comes up to the plate, I notice
his jaws, opening and closing
on the sweet pulp, chomping at the
plate before the whirring wheel
of the pitching machine. Each boy
is given five strikes before the coach
sets the T on the plate. Eventually,
when the bases are filled, Double
Bubble gum wrappers blow across
the infield with the dust and the
small yellow bees. No one loses
in second grade, not even Miller,
who, as a dyslexic, can’t read,
stammers through the week,
but never needs the T. He can
drive a long shot 50 feet
over the shortstop’s head.

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)

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