Gregory Altreuter


Good Dog

In winter I’m returning
From Michigan, I stand in
The lee of the bus depot
Fingering the coins in my
Pocket: enough for a pack
Of cigarettes or, pooled with
The salty veteran of
Vietnam, a pint of cheap
whiskey to share for the ride;
He’ll leave by Toledo, but
We would finish the booze in
That time. I am selfish and
Buy the cigarettes instead.

Always it is too warm on
The bus, except at stops where
The driver descends to clock his
Progress. “Fifteen minutes,” called;
The sleepers roll themselves more
Snugly into their coats while
The rest alight, creep forth, sip
The outside air, untainted
By enforced proximity to
Bad breath, stale sweat, secret farts.

Snow falls upon the concrete
Expanse across which my breath
Streams out in visible puffs;
So much of my mouth, my lungs
And nose, my body smells of
Tobacco, only the fog
Of exhalation gives the sense
Of smoking, and breath reduced
To the cold’s similar cue.

Neon drips off-season and
Lurid, beckoning me, but
there isn’t enough money left
In my pocket. In ten hours
I’ll get home. I will sleep some,
Read some, talk to no one through
The night. Only the dog will
Be awake, creaking across
The floorboards wagging his grey
Tail; he licks my hand once, soft,
Desultorily, before he curls
Back into the same sleep that
Engulfs the house while I have
One last cigarette before
Bed and the long mornings to
Come before I return my
Heart from winter and the thaw.



Gregory Altreuter writes: “I am an American living in Sydney, working to understand my new home and the internal and external forces that shape the country physically and politically. I have previously published a chapbook of poetry with the Neither/Nor Press of Ann Arbor, Michigan, called Dog Shoots Owner Then Kills Self, and have most recently had work published in Blue Dog, by the Poetry Australia Foundation.”