Al Ortolani

Russians Dig Trenches in the Red Forest

Opening the kitchen door
to let the dog out tonight,
he pauses, and I think it’s the rain
still dripping from the eaves

from the everything left out
before the clouds settled,
but then I realize he’s listening,
to a new sound—
first frogs along the tree line, swelling
into the living pines, the mulch

of old songs
reminding us of the garden hoe,
wild asparagus, new lettuce,
surprisingly forgotten
after months of freeze,
after months of blankets,
gas logs, television,
noses buried in CNN

before war irradiated the news,
before Russian shovels
turned graves,
dug trenches instead of turnips.


Al Ortolani is a recipient of the Rattle Chapbook Series Award. His individual poems have appeared in journals like The Chiron Review, Prairie Schooner, Rattle, and poetrybay. His work has been featured in The Writer’s Almanac and in the American Life in Poetry. Ortolani’s most recent collection of poems, The Taco Boat, has just been released by New York Quarterly Books.