Al Ortolani

Choosing the Five-Year Battery

Woke mid-morning during a rainstorm. I took the Rav4 into the Lyle’s Fix It for a battery replacement. Nearly two hundred dollars later, I’m back home at the computer, wondering how any of this could have been so expensive. I double check the work order, the receipt. At first, I’m not really seeing it in battery cables. However, the automotive guy, Lyle’s assistant, did tell me some interesting stories about his ex-wife’s post partem depression. His divorce papers said, she didn’t care enough to care. My eyes teared up. Kind of heavy for Lyle’s Fix It while replacing the Rav4 battery, even if it was the five-year variety. I seem to bring that out in people, sad stories leak all over me like anti-freeze through a loose ring clamp. Maybe I just like to watch the wrench turn, the simplicity of clean terminals, the foreverness of a five-year decision. I take comfort in the extra turn on a troublesome nut.



Green Tara

I know a woman who lives in a cave. It’s not a muddy Ozark cave with a small creek and brown bats building guano piles. No, it’s more like a room chiseled out of the face of a mountainside. I’ve seen a picture. She’s sitting at a painted table with a tea pot on a small stove. There’s a wall-hanging like a mandala behind her, a few books, a vase. The cave has seen a woman’s touch and has been swept clean, softened by textile, by textures unknown to rock. There’s no running water or electricity, like I said, it’s a cave in a mountain, not an apartment below a bar jokingly dubbed “the cave.” I’d like to throw my sleeping bag down on the floor and watch the sun rise through the door. There’s little more I can say. Her experiences are so different than mine. Probably, she’s ridden a motorcycle, fast like the wind itself. Probably, she’s been hurt in love. Probably, she’s danced until the what-ifs and what-the-fucks poured out of her skin. Probably, she chose a cave because it was dependable, like hope, not because she had piles of throw pillows that needed a home.



Al Ortolani’s poetry has appeared in journals such as Rattle, Prairie Schooner, and New Letters. His most recent collection, On the Chicopee Spur, was released from New York Quarterly Books in 2018. His Hansel and Gretel Get the Word on the Street is a recipient of the Rattle Chapbook Award for 2019.