The first shot comes,

as I knew it would,

yards away.

It’s the second,

the insurance shot,

that hammers my brain

like a death blow.

Outboards growl toward me

from all sides of the lake.

Bears draw men,

like bears to honey.


That's the thing:

a bear brain

is an addictive brain.

Give it the fentanyl

it craves—cans of coke,

candy and corn—

and it will break into cars

and cabins every time.

Give it heroin—the fat

in bird seed—and it will

ravage every feeder

in the neighborhood.

When the owner

of this brain startles

a family at dinner,

men of the lake draw a line.


Tonight, just past nine,

the bear downs a sandwich

left as bait.

A double round

of thirty-ought-eight finishes

the meal.

By the sheen,

a bear well fed.

Into a boat he goes,

then a pickup,

to be left

in woods as carrion.

The shooter,

who couldn’t miss,

takes the paws

as trophies.


All this unfolds blessed

by natural law:

Bears do what

bears do, and men do

what men do. 

Except when bears do

what they shouldn’t,

according to men.


Dick Altman lives on the high desert plain of New Mexico. His work first appeared in the Santa Fe Literary Review, in 2009, and won first prize for poetry in the Santa Fe New Mexican’s 2015 writing competition. Other works have been published in The American Journal of PoetryriverSedge (U of Texas), Fredericksburg Literary ReviewFoliate Oak, Blue Line, THE Magazine, Gravel, The Offbeat, Almagre Review, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and Allegro. Studying for an MA in English at the University of Chicago, he says, “put me in poetry’s grip, and it never let go”.