Al Ortolani

The Good Karma Stop Light I’m thinking of St. Francis and the leperswhen this one legged panhandlerhops into the traffic. He holds out his hand—I’m sellinggood karma man. The light is red.No way to kick the gas pedal and skirtthe intersection. Sherri is Sister Clarerolling down her window digging through her purse.She has a few twenties and a coupleof ones. I say give him a dollar. The one legged man, balanced likea pogo stick—the bus to good karmacosts more than a buck. She slips a twenty through the window.The light changes and I gas itacross Congress. In the rearview the beggar bounces backto his bus stop—the twentyflapping like a prayer flag. Storm Dharma Crows attack the cottonwood,whirling through the snowlike hatchets. The owl, seldom seen, is stoic,a target on a branch. Whenhe finally takes wing, the crows turn murderous,hysterical in challenge. They streakbeyond photography― cawing through the treesin the sideways snow.Park roads, barricaded with 2x10s, billowin drifts. My grandsontromps into a hardwood— secreted with foxand bobcat, the invisible roostsof owls. Chasing the distant voices of crows, he hoodsthe camera lens with his hand—the old trees creaking, woody vines clacking. The owlis a boot printfilling with snow. Al Ortolani has been a public school teacher in Kansas for the past 39 years. As a boy, he dreamed of being a second baseman for the New York Yankees. However, when they didn't call, he began writing poetry. He has three books of poetry, The Last Hippie of Camp 50 and Finding the Edge, published by Woodley Press and Wren's House, published by Coal City Press. He is an editor for The Little Balkans Review and works closely with the Kansas City Writer's Place.