Teaching Hawthorne to High School Juniors – by Al Ortolani


The old trunk has casters.
A boy rolls it, squeaking
like a thousand bats,
down the hallway
so that he can turn its
flat top into a desk.
Sitting on the floor
to write is difficult
for some. Teachers
use the change in venue
to engage students.
That’s why she allows
the trunk, the boy,
the squeaking wheels,
to set her teeth
on edge, to give her
cold chills. Everyone
listens, unable to write
until the squeaking
stops. Hawthorne’s
black veil,
lifted only at death,
is on hold again,
the village returning
to itself
after years of waiting.




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, and New Letters. His poems been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, and he has recently been featured on Writer’s Almanac.