Poetry: Al Ortolani’s “Buddhists Call It Monkey Mind”

Take toothpaste for instance―
white foam splattered
on the mirror, on the vanity,
on the chrome faucet.
Each time you spit,
lather drips down your chin,
runs the brush onto your hands;
you can smell mint
the rest of the day on your fingertips
When you woke
that morning, you were just
another sap with halitosis;
by noon, you’re a reformer.
Purpose evokes response.
You begin to petition.
A man, calling himself a friend,
stops you on the street,
and asks to suck your fingers,
to lick your cuticles.
You lend him a hand.
At first, he is gentle, tentative.
Before long, he is stuffing
your knuckles, hands, wrists
into his mouth like sausages.




Al Ortolani is the author of The Last Hippie of Camp 50Finding the EdgeWren’s House, Cooking Chili on the Day of the Dead,Waving Mustard in Surrender, and, most recently, Francis Shoots Pool at Chubb’s Bar. Poetry and reviews have appeared in journals such as Prairie Schooner, Camroc Press Review, New Letters, The Quarterly, The Boston Literary Magazine, among others.

Photo credit: headstuff.org

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