By Al Ortolani, USA (Published in Issue 10)
A shot from the film Le Trou (1960)
Al Ortolani is a secondary English teacher in the Kansas City area. His poetry has appeared in the New York Quarterly, the Midwest Quarterly, the English Journal and others. His most recent book of poetry, Finding the Edge, has recently been published by Woodley Press at Washburn University. Presently, he is a co-editor of The Little Balkans Review.
When the jail door shut,
The very afternoon the brothers battled the bars
By Al Ortolani, USA (Published in issue 12)
The Velvet Revolution Reaches Kansas
Otto lived in a house boat on the Neosho River.
Some said he was a pot farmer in hiding. Mostly,
he drank cases of Pilsner, and floated
the corked bottles on limb lines.
On cold nights a foggy light frosted his window;
blue smoke twisted free from stove chimney.
A gang plank extended to the shore,
and a beaten trail curved upwards to the county road.
But that was before something serious happened
and the trail was overrun with kudzu,
the plank sinking into the river. This occurred
right after the Berlin Wall collapsed. Neighbors renewed
their interest, and wagered his career failed
with the cold war, a disconnect no doubt
from the CIA. He spoke Czech, you see,
received letters, addressed in a clear feminine hand
from Prague of all places. When the letters stopped,
KGB agents, identified by their non-descript Renaults,
crept slowly up the county road,
searching for the path overgrown with green.
The truth of the matter (from a Bohemian source)
claimed Otto had taken to writing
children’s stories about talking cats.
They were being published in the Czech Republic
under the nom de plume of a beautiful
young blonde named Freda Horst.