Two Poems by Alex Tretbar

Physical Education

I used to only do push-ups
when I needed to find a vein,
which was about three times
a day. Now I do them once
a week in the park, my eyes
zooming in and zooming out
on the ants, dead or alive.

There is potential life
in the half-severed wire
hanging from a utility pole
in the lot outside my window.
I pray a child doesn’t grow
curious and touch it, then
touch it and touch it again.


Museum of One

We don’t believe anyone
who tells us they’ve come back.
Only we ourselves would know
if we stepped through the gauze
and somehow remembered both sides of it.
Like a stomach ache, or tinnitus, or anything
else that happens inside us, it is doomed
or blessed to stay there: dear hieroglyph
on a wall in the museum of one.


Alex Tretbar won the 2022 PEN America Prison Writing Contest in Poetry, and was a finalist for the 2021 PEN/Edward Bunker Prize in Fiction. His poems and nonfiction have appeared in or are forthcoming from Bat City Review, Poetry Northwest, Meridian, Buckmxn Journal, HAD, Southeast Review, and elsewhere. He lives in Kansas City, Missouri.

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