Key Card Dawn

Early morning geese pull the darkness behind them, tugging the fabric of night to the west. Their voices waggle above the rooftops, somewhere beyond my sight. They are shadows against a larger shadow. My truck motor pings as it cools, parking spot filled. Once more I hear the flock before I swipe my key card through the lock. I turn. Dawn is lifting, a slit of light, a curtain opening between the night sky and the sleeping city. Often I am the first one in the building. It is a time for whispering furnaces and buzzing electric lights. There is no one to love except in generalities: students, colleagues, bland motivations for the good of mankind. There is a hard to reach itch in the center of my back. I square up to an edge in the hallway and grind the brick.

one street light caught
    in patches of ice, guessing
        shapes below snow

Al Ortolani teaches English in the Kansas City area. He is happiest when his students bring their guitars into his classroom and play songs they’ve written. Al Ortolani’s newest collection of poems, Paper Birds Don’t Fly, was released in 2016 from New York Quarterly Books. His poetry and reviews have appeared in journals such as Rattle, Prairie Schooner, New Letters, and Tar River Poetry. He has recently been featured on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac.

You can see more of his work in issues 4.4 and 3.3