First Chill - Al Ortolani

For the first time in weeks, you wear
the Patagonia jacket, tighten
the laces on your leather boots, walk
the trail through the familiar woods.
When it is your time to go, and here,
you are referring to the final departure,
there is a fondness
for things you can touch, the beaten
deer wallow, the tall grass rifled
with thistle and goldenrod.
There is melancholia, of course, gray clouds,
saddle soap on old leather,
the things of a poem. On the other hand,

a hawk, wind in his wings, is gone
behind the ridge the moment
you turn your head. His tracks in the wind
are as invisible as your breath.
The intangible is what you cannot bear to lose,
here, where love drops leaves, where
tomorrow rumbles in the west.

A small boy in a hoodie
keeps step with his grandfather.
Both know the path through the trees.
They speak easily as if time itself
is sheltered by the sky.

Al Ortolani’s poetry has appeared in journals such as Rattle, Prairie Schooner, and New Letters. His most recent collections, On the Chicopee Spur, was released from New York Quarterly Books in 2018 and Swimming Shelter:100 Poems in 100 Days from Spartan Press in December of 2020.  Ortolani is the Manuscript Editor for Woodley Press in Topeka, Kansas, and has directed a memoir writing project for Vietnam veterans across Kansas in association with the Library of Congress and Humanities Kansas. He is a 2019 recipient of the Rattle Chapbook Series Award for Hansel and Gretel Get the Word on the Street. Currently, as a retired teacher, he lives in the Kansas City area, subsisting on Chinese carry-out with his wife Sherri and their rescue dog Stanley.