After my father died, my mother
spent her days sorting through
his closets, giving away armloads
of clothes, unused tools, electric gadgets,
especially watches, purchased
from the shopping channel
for 19.95 or less. It was his way
of saying my time to the poverty
of the immigrant, the Valley of Ashes
only miles from his door.
Cleaning out my own house years later,
I move boxes of books, notebooks of old
poems, spirals of unfinished novels,
all that my father and mother
gave me, the shirt on my back,
graduate school, sheaves of
college ruled paper. You can be
anything you want they said.
Al Ortolani’s poetry has appeared in journals such as Rattle, Prairie Schooner, and the Chiron Review. His newest collection, On the Chicopee Spur, was released from New York Quarterly Books in 2018. He is a recent recipient of the Rattle Chapbook Award for 2019.