Al Ortolani, Soaring Fins

Al Ortolani

We found Uncle Bobby
drunk again on 8th Street, curled
around the base of a tired forsythia
like a berm of topsoil.

Mother said load him
into the back of the station wagon
before the neighbors wake,
careful not to bang his head
on nothing sharp. Dad said
best leave him where he lay
he made good as compost.

Then he chewed his cigar
and studied the opposite curb
as my brothers folded
Bobby’s legs through
the ultra-wide electric window,
which in the ‘59 Plymouth
looked out backwards
on the zinc smelters, Chubb’s Bar,
the promise of soaring fins.

Author’s Comment: The poem “Soaring Fins” is a about a family which is living down hand to mouth. They are making do as best they can financially and emotionally. The main irony of the poem is of course the soaring fins on the back of the station wagon. They reach towards prosperity like wings. The family is taking care of one of their own who has had a few too many. As they fold him like baggage into the back of the car, the narrator can’t help but notice the zinc smelters upon which the town depends for existence. I grew up in a coal mining town in southeast Kansas. The tailings of coal and remains of the old smelters are still evident today.

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