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  • Dick Altman

"Coming To Bury Myself," "Numbers Man" and "Midnight of Bears"


Wrestling by Hudson Cooke artwork featured image for Landing Zone Magazine's poetry post Three Poems by Dick Altman
Wrestling by Hudson Cooke

Coming to bury myself

--his dream, after diagnosis…

Not yet winter, but soon. High desert’s sun, even at twenty-two degrees,

scorches snow on the roof, sending a cascade of diamonds pouring

from the canales. Five hours ago, an hour before sunrise, I lay on the mat,

arms spread-eagled, ankles crossed, wondering what the position feels like,

shoulders broken, hands and ankles spiked to a wall in one of New Mexico’s

centuries-old santuarios.

Five hours forward into the present, looking west to sacred mountains

of the Jemez. I mean to bury myself, when I visit there later today.

A shaded site near a precipice, looking over the Pueblo-thrumming Rio

Grande valley, out to the Sangre de Cristo peaks. I’ll dig my grave here,

at seven-thousand feet, amid pine needles and elk scat, a lone piece

of sharply-faceted obsidian for a headstone.

Lots of poems, a dog that loves me. Why wait for the agonistic mess?

Dog and I will share a double-dose of morphine. I’ll take shots

of the site for Facebook and invite you all to cover us over. These lines,

they constitute my and dog’s DNR. Please, friends, respect it. We’ll keep

our footprint small. No ambulances. No hearse. No flesh going up

in smoke. Car pool, if you can. The Visitor’s visited. It’s time.


Numbers Man

Life’s like a ledger, he’d say. Could tell you how many goose eggs

over easy he ate in five years (1,545). How many rail ties humped (279),

to build retaining walls around his house. Pounds of butter consumed (423).

Number of downhill miles nailed in bumps of Utah and Colorado (1,726).

Likely why a swelling no bigger than a hummer’s egg escapes his eye.

More like an insect bite he feels on the neck shaving. Ties grow smaller.

He quits after two or three runs, begins to miss work, stops counting.

Looks, not ten years younger, which he is, but like my father, then my

father’s father. Geese that follow him everywhere, I shoo back to the lake.

Four days in a row they return to lay eggs in the hutch. His last morning,

as if they knew, hutch and lake read empty. Muscular frame down

ninety pounds, hair white, pulse faint, eyes closed, speechless. A hundred-

year-old at fifty. Data’s life, he’d say. When he tries to compute cells

escaping from his kidneys like an octopus, nothing adds up.


Midnight of Bears

Moonless sky over Eagle Crag Lake.

Nearest light starlight rippling on water.

All human light flaming out hours ago.

All human sound.

Turn off bed lamp,

exhausted from day of planting

boulders, re-rooting ferns.

Scrabbling noises,

ten inches from my head,

freeze me to the pillow.

Outside wood-paneled wall,

baseball-mitt claws of a bear—

maybe more than one—

scratch for grubs in earth

around cabin’s pilings.

Maybe bear that punched holes

in kitchen wall to steal bag of sugar.

Or tore door off outdoor fridge.

Three hundred pounds of ravenous muscle.

Ten inches away.

Not one bear,

a sow and two cubs,

ten inches from my face.

I hear them snuffling.

Sounds of joy.

To me, of terror.

No out-running three hundred pounds

of mother bear,


bent on saving cubs

from even lean meat like me.

Mauling the likes of me.

Chuffing, chuffing,

outside the wall.

Tasting scent

of cold sweat’s salt,

ten inches from tooth,

tongue and claw.

Grab beer can of stones.

Shake without stop.

Body shaking without stop.

Desperate to run without stop.


Dick Altman writes in the high, thin, magical air of Santa Fe, NM, where, at 7,000 feet, reality and imagination often blur. He is published in Santa Fe Literary Review, American Journal of Poetry, riverSedge, Fredericksburg Literary Review, Foliate Oak, Blue Line, THE Magazine, Humana obscura, The Offbeat, Haunted Waters Press, Split Rock Review, Almagre Review, The RavensPerch, Beyond Words, Sky Island Journal and others here and abroad. He is a poetry winner of Santa Fe New Mexican’s annual literary competition. His first collection of poems, Voices in the Heart of Stones, is being considered for publication.

Hudson Cooke is a writer and artist living and working in Brooklyn, New York, where he is originally from. He graduated in 2019 with a degree in philosophy. His artwork and writing has appeared online in Dovetail Magazine, and Redivider (upcoming) and he currently works in fabrication. You can check out more of his work at his website,

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