Al Ortolani, “Legacy”

Al Ortolani

During the night, the wind picks up.
First in the high branches of the walnut
and then in the hanging geraniums.
The neighbor’s porch light appears
to move against the screen, swaying,
flickering behind the limbs. The man

in the green house has been up and down
all night. The lights flashing
from room to room; he searches the kitchen
for ibuprofen, then the bathroom. He gives up
and returns to bed. Later, he steps out onto
the porch and digs through his tool bags.

A small job like painting the garage
has turned his knees into battlegrounds.
He listens for thunder in the distance,
rain that will keep him indoors tomorrow,
a respite that doesn’t require him to quit
or to give in to pain. He never once

remembers his father quitting,
even at the end, the family gathered,
the cancer stretching into winter.

Author’s Comment: “Legacy” is primarily a poem about what is passed down from fathers to sons. Among the males in many families, a certain stoicism is expected. I’ve noticed this particularly among the children of the Depression Era generation. This became particularly poignant when my father was fighting pancreatic cancer. He had to “tough it out”. The poem “Legacy” is the result of free writing and journaling during this difficult period. I kept it around in a very rough form. One day I was glancing back over some old lines and stumbled upon it. I thought to myself that maybe there is something of a poem in this. I began editing.

Bio: Al Ortolani is a teacher from Kansas. His poetry has appeared in a number of periodicals, both print and online across the United States: The New York Quarterly, The English Journal, The Midwest Quarterly and others. He has two books of poetry,The Last Hippie of Camp 50 and Finding the Edge, published by Woodley Press at Washburn University. His third book, Wren’s House, is due to be released this winter from Coal City Review Press in Lawrence, Kansas. He is an editor with The Little Balkans Review.

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