Alex Tretbar


Let’s store our jewels and guns together in the same safe, the same salt mine. I know I’ve been frantically looking around this room like a head with its chicken cut off, but don’t worry: it’s only Monday. Meanwhile fentanyl is added to everything, and I find myself in the flypaper sometimes. Sweet adhesive. Panicked in sun and moon, sometimes I’ll just need you to read me the active ingredients of fertilizers, and not hesitate when I come in out of blizzard and walk up to your ear and whisper I’m ready to enter the workforce. All grocery stores eventually merge, a rhyming of prison with liberty. Praise is unadvised. I’ve been frantically looking around this room like a head with its chicken reattached. I’m telling you, I gave my kitten a pony for its birthday. You’re just going to have to live with that. I’ll only ever grant you just enough context. If you find me drunk, alone, I might show you my father’s toy apothecary kit, ask you to snort the off-white powders with me, though they are—and always have been—inert. Sunday, no friends in range. And I want to be admired while I am still, standing still. I want to be admired while I am still admirable. My lotion smells like champagne or I am blacking out again. I was just about to say that. I was just about to say that.

Lovers from the north, shouldering broadcloth,
you walk now into the predicted prayer
hand-in-hand with your hawing
and blubbering kin. They never fail
to fell you, these blood eves on the porch
with Jasper Jowls and the boys
and I passing the pipe of speed around.
Never mind that Jasper is the animatronic
banjo player for Chuck-E-Cheese,
nor that we are extinguished fire
-flies. Lovers from the north, we gather and wait
for you at the tree line, but we have married
ourselves to the motor-oiled poplar stumps.
We are otherwise unmarriable, but
please weave pansies into your hair
anyway, let us watch you gossamer
away with our siblings amended by city
jobs and diplomas. Our sleep is sleeping
in the dark-wet reflection of bovine eye.
We wait for midnight’s dirigible. Sure,
we love your swell and rosehip ripe, the way
your laughter gets lost in the glass of our pipe,
and when nightly we move too far from our minds
you coax us back to kitchen sanity, breadloaf slow.
The way you look at us over the garlicked cutting
board like we are simultaneous uncles and unborn,
smoke-pulled to porches forever… If we had held
out sanely for just another year, you might’ve erred
in marrying us, shouldering eggshell
broadcloth into double bind. So leave us
to sit with toothfall and lullaby. Oh dew-scorch
and soon-gone sapling, we have opted
for finities, the shardplay of Bic and call. Life—
if it really wants us—is going to have to tree us
and burn down the forest. I can see them already:
the hounds acircle, an angel with radiant badge.
Jasper plucks a mechanical dirge for us, our
pale exit, and it sounds like the factory floor
giving way to earthquake. Here is our pension
and penitentiary, here is the gravestone that is
its own bouquet of pansies, purple and ignoble.

From the Author: This pair of poems was an attempt to invert the ways that I have often heard marriage and non-marriage talked about. “Vows” is crazed and conversational; “Anti-Epithalamium” is grave and overly formal.

Alex Tretbar is the author of the chapbook Kansas City Gothic (Broken Sleep, 2025). A Writers for Readers Fellow with the Kansas City Public Library, he teaches free writing classes to the community. His poems and essays appear or are forthcoming in The Cincinnati ReviewKenyon ReviewNarrativePoetry NorthwestSixth FinchThe Threepenny Review, and elsewhere. He is a poetry editor for Bear Review.