Al Ortolani, Stigmata

Al Ortolani

Each morning you will rise
before the sun. It will fling
its rays over the horizon like ropes

and you will be expected
to climb them. Each day
you will be understood less.

How can it be otherwise―
touched as you are. In preparation
you will not sleep. Black bread

holds you like a stone. Soup itself
is a sandbag. Each night

you will wait through the hours
for the first movement of the sun
as it grinds upwards. Even those

who tell your story will be
suspect—each revision an attempt
to get the story. You will be

watched like a magician
with a deck of cards—show us
how you pulled the ace—local

television will have a chopper
ready to broadcast
whatever happens next. Let us

give this up, Leo says. The woods
are complete with miracles.
Sparrows soar.

Author’s Comment: My poems in this issue of The Wild Goose Poetry Review are part of a larger work and are “after” The Little Flowers of St. Francis. They were written, misinterpretations included, after a humble digestion of the Saint’s life. Little relevance is given to time or place. Francis, Clare, Leo, Juniper and the early Brothers are in a sense timeless. The poems mix the images of the 13th century with that of the 21st.

Bio: Al Ortolani is beginning his fortieth year as a secondary English teacher. He has written four books of poetry and has published widely in periodicals such as Prairie Schooner, New Letters, The Midwest Quarterly, and The New York Quarterly. He is currently editor with the Little Balkans Press and is on the Board of Directors of the Kansas City Writers Place.

5 thoughts on “Al Ortolani, Stigmata

  1. Bravo again, Al. I’m always glad to find your poems, knowing I can count on being charmed, entertained, and enlightened. One reading is never enough.

  2. Makes me think of Kafka’s “Hunger Artist” somehow. Wonderfully captures the loneliness of an ascetic life, and the inability of the rest of the world to understand the experience, motivation, or meaning.

  3. If I hadn’t already fallen smack into the poem, the closing would surely have caught me!

    Let us

    give this up, Leo says. The woods
    are complete with miracles.
    Sparrows soar.

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