Tired of airing his laundry, the novelist
decides to write in the third person,
focusing on tradesmen in a small village
in late medieval England.
His main character is a cooper,
known for his cured oaken casks.
The village is south of London,
a coastal town, a day’s cart ride from Weymouth.
Gulls pester the barrel maker at an inn table.
He shoos them with one hand while he spoons
his pottage with the other. The innkeeper’s
daughter fills his cup from a pitcher.
She wears a blue ribbon in her auburn hair.
Her eyes are green with promise. Her mother,
a pocked, petulant woman, snaps a bedsheet
from an upper window. Fishwives
ignore the rat, escaping down
the mooring line from a French boat.
Always the rat, the fleas, the innkeeper’s mouser
dozing on an empty barrel.
Al Ortolani’s most recent collections are: On the Chicopee Spur which was released by New York Quarterly Books in 2018 and Swimming Shelter: 100 Poems in 100 Days which was published by Spartan Press in December of 2020. Ortolani is the Manuscript Editor for Woodley Press in Topeka, Kansas, and has directed a memoir writing project for Vietnam veterans across Kansas in association with the Library of Congress and Humanities Kansas. He is a 2019 recipient of the Rattle Chapbook Series Award for Hansel and Gretel Get the Word on the Street. Currently, as a retired teacher, he lives in the Kansas City area, subsisting on Chinese carry-out with his wife Sherri and their rescue dog Stanley.