We came here for the endangered Chilean sea bass
but I can’t even hear myself chew over the smooth jazz.
It is appropriately unbearable when I decide to butter
my bread instead of writing you a letter. Ear cupped
to the conversation’s subtext circling the drain, naked
and drenched in water, I am in no position to save us
conveniently. I begin to pulse red like I just took damage
in a video game, and your correction of my pronunciation of
élan chills me. Is this an ice rink or a restaurant, what am I
to do with this functional knife, and where have all the sea
bass gone? It’s hard to explain without spoiling how it ends
in language, nudity, sex, smoking and suicide. Parental
advisory: your teeth shine white like I’ve been licking them
clean through the passage of years since you left me.
Alex Tretbar was incarcerated from 2017 to 2022 in the state of Oregon. During his years in prison he founded a creative writing program that features instructors from Oregon State University. His manuscript Kansas City Gothic was selected as a finalist for the 2023 Wolfson Press Poetry Chapbook Competition, and his work appears or is forthcoming in Bat City Review, Colorado Review, Full Stop, Iterant, Meridian, Pithead Chapel, Poetry Northwest, SAND, Southeast Review, Southern Humanities Review, and elsewhere. As a Writers for Readers Fellow with the Kansas City Public Library, he teaches free writing classes to the community and assists with the Maya Angelou Book Award.
Artwork: “vorübergehend sind wir hier” by Mirka Walter
Watercolor and ink on paper with digital overwork