The Can; Trails and Dens; Hunt; My Father; Black Body Radiation

The Can 

then peering down 
at a soaked urinal cake,
Ted began to think about his life. 

He remembered his first love 
and how much she meant to him. 
He remembered how in his twenties, 
he loved to paint. He wasn't any good 
but was that any reason to give up? 

He thought about his 
dying grandfather 
who taught him 
how to shoot a gun. 

Then he 
finished up, 
zipped up, 
and flushed, 

watching it all spiral 
                        and away. 
Trails and Dens

I turn to the drink
like a coyote swivels 
it's head towards a 
limp squirrel on a 
snowy day, 

with an understanding of 
oncoming satisfaction 
and a survivalist 
mentality for the hunt.  

I’ve tried to imitate 
animals my whole life. 
On gloomy days I’m 
as lazy as a cat and 
after long days of work
I stretch out over 
the cold kitchen floor 
like an old dog. 

I’ve swum naked in 
rivers trying my 
hardest to be a 
bluegill but couldn't 
hold my breath. 

I’ve followed deer trails 
and slept in bushes
with hopes that I’d 
transform into a whitetail
but each morning, I wake up
with opposable thumbs. 

I can’t tell you how many 
nights I’ve stayed up 
late and spoke to 
croaking frogs, 
that’s my secret,
but I can tell you 
I’m envious of the snake 
that can swallow one whole. 

What a reality check it is 
to wake up, 
take out the trash, 
make the coffee, 
shovel the snow off 
the driveway 
and realize how 
painfully human 
you really are. 

This is how it ends. 

The swooping shadow of 
a sharp-shinned hawk
veils the sunlight that’s 
casting through your 
perfected green room. 

The raptor’s eye  
is on you. 


a former
blackjack oak   
whittled down 
to a single 
My Father

Sitting on a faded red cooler 
a lit light cigarette dangles 
from his interdigit like a 
white pocket-sized pool stick. 

Shoulders bent forward 
taking swigs of Bud Light, 
shrugging and growling 
like an old retired pitbull. 

He keeps an ice blue iris 
and a shrinking pupil 
on the smoldering remnants 
of what November had to offer. 

My father set in his jagged ways 
tilts his head slightly to the sky 
like a ruminative farmer making
his own sense of Heaven. 
Black Body Radiation 

Crippled spine shooting 
Pain in sharp short bursts.
With your forced time off
You wish to learn how 
To properly hunt deer.

That dream and talk 
Seems so far away now.

Each piece of split wood is 
Wheelbarrowed up to the door, 
Piled up, then placed inside the stove. 

Now the fire grows. 
Bright yellow waves 
Curling into searing 
Blue and white crescents. 

Inside the house 
The room seems bigger 
And warmer than ever. 


John Altmayer is a full-time bartender at a casino in St. Louis, Missouri. Some of his favorite poets are Gregory Orr, Charles Olson, and Theodore Roethke.