November 3, 2014

Driving into Lecompton with an Hour to Kill by Al Ortolani

The town is pressed
into the hillside
like a wildflower
in a history book—
petals creased, colors faded,
stems stretched
into stains.  A woman
sits in the spring sun,
a table of children’s clothes
flattened for sale beside her.
She waves to my truck—
the door to the Territorial Museum
propped wide with an anvil
of Burlington rail.
The sign on the door
reads Everything for Sale
All Weekend. For the
first time today
an answer isn’t expected of me—
Daffodils corkscrew up
from forgotten bulbs.
The Kaw laps against
the cottonwoods. As ancient
as the river, rough bark
buds with new green.

Al Ortolani’s poetry and reviews have appeared in journals such as Prairie SchoonerNew Letters, Word Riot, and the New York Quarterly. His fifth collection of poems, Waving Mustard in Surrender, was released in 2014 from New York Quarterly Books. Currently, he is teaching English in the Blue Valley School District and serves on the Board of Directors of the Kansas City Writers Place

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