Al Ortolani – Three Poems

Deep on Punt Return

He recognizes the tenor in his father’s voice
Booted above the noise of the crowd,
The sugar in his booze unmistakable.
The town has seen the old man fumble,
Carrying his kid in the curve of his arm,
Seldom tucked, swinging
Wildly like a loaf of bread. On weekends
He can be flagged at the top of the bleachers
With his mouth open, his arm cocked,
His great coat buttoned to his throat.
Waving off the fair catch, his son
Gathers himself between the hashmarks,
Waiting as the ball drops in the lights
Where once again he takes the hit.


Hansel and Gretel Get the Word on the Street

You have tried leaving
a trail of bread crumbs
that will take you
back home to father,
but the grackles
eat them as soon
as your little sister
quits shooing them away.

The rest of the story
is scarier. There’s
a witch at the edge of town
who will lock you
in a rabbit hutch.

She plans
to eat you, once
you’re fattened up. After
which, the plot turns
confusing. I’ve
blocked it out

on account of the
violence, but I know
that you are pressured
to eat fast food: French
fries, hamburgers, chocolate
shakes. You’re
required to stick
a bone, rather than
your finger through
the chicken wire.

Of course, only a moron
would confuse
a chicken bone for a finger,
but the word on the street
says you have to fake
your weight-gain. Eventually,
you’ll catch the witch
off-guard. Then,
you slip out of the hutch,
push her in a pot
of boiling canola, and
get this, you eat her
candy house.

The witch, they say,
is mostly blind, probably
in the late stages of
macular degeneration. She has
lost her glasses,
and that’s another part of
the story that I just
can’t digest. The old
lady is shrewd.
She has chewed up little
boys like you for years.

She works chat rooms
for gosh sakes.

She deploys multiple
user-names like Sweet Thing,
Tootsie Roll and Honey Buns. So surely,
a hag that savvy
owns dozens
of Wal-mart reading glasses.


Playing Mafia Wars on Library Computers

The library computers are available
For one hour per day. I have already
Used my one hour, and have turned in
My numbered, orange time card. Even, though
There are three seats empty and no one
Waiting outside of the door, rules
Are rules.  I’ve hidden behind
The bust of Andrew Carnegie for the shift to change,
For the new library aide to command
The controller’s seat, one who doesn’t recognize
My black fedora or my shapeless trench coat.

I only need a moment to check my
facebook, to see if any new
Requests from family have found me, not as a fugitive
On the lamb in a library
But as a Don connected to Soldiers.
My mafia wars family visits me out of respect,
They kiss my ring and ask for gifts:
Get-away cars, bullet-proof vests and sawed-off shotguns.
Gamers like Fat Freddy, Tony the Guinea,
and Fantasy Hit-Bitch are desperate people.
They have been
Roughed-up by public libraries before.