ASPHALT

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Asphalt
by Al Ortolani 

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The road crew hired temps
between semesters
to stand beside the hopper
shoveling. The foreman
disliked college students.
He never learned our names,
referenced us by the tools
we carried—Skip and I
were Shovels, scraping the hot
mix into the conveyor.
Ronnie the college drop-out
advanced to Rake.
He followed the paver,
flicking the screed ridge
to a smooth seam.
All summer I shoveled the city
streets, made-do with whatever
shade I could catch. Each day
at five, we cleaned the tools
with diesel and putty knives.
Then we sprayed our boots,
kicking our steel toes against
a bar of rail line. We wet rags
with the diesel and scrubbed
our hands and faces.
Then I drove home, a towel
on the seat, another on the arm rest.
I hung my work clothes
on the fence behind the house.
They appeared capable
of walking off on their own.
“Asphalt” by Al Ortolani from Paper Birds Don’t Fly. © NYQ Books, 2016.


http://www.alortolani.com


 

Al Ortolani

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Jack and Al
 Al Ortolani’s prose and poetry has appeared in Rattle, New Letters, the New York Quarterly, The Midwest Quarterly, The English Journal, The QuarterlyThe Laurel Review, Prairie Schooner, Word Riot, Camroc Press Review, and others. He is the author of one chapbook, Slow Stirring Spoon, High/CooPress, two collections of poetry, The Last Hippie of Camp 50 and Finding the Edge, both published by Woodley Press at Washburn University. His third book of poetry, Wren’s House, a collection of haiku, published by Coal City Press in Lawrence, Kansas. Book four, Cooking Chili on the Day of the Dead, was published by Aldrich Press, CA. His fifth book,Waving Mustard in Surrender, was released from New York Quarterly Books, New York, New York. His sixth collection, Francis Shoots Pool at Chubb’s Bar came out in February 2015 from Spartan Press in Kansas City, Missouri. Soon to be released will be Paper Birds Don’t Fly, New York Quarterly Books, and Ghost Sign with J.T. Knoll, Adam Jameson, and Melissa Fite Johnson from Spartan Press in Kansas City, White Buffalo Poets.
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