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Bear Dreams

ISSUE:  Autumn 2002

What had seemed to him in June just a few
five-petaled pink wild roses
was in fact a weeks long, slow-moving onslaught

of flowers. He sees this now,
in September, having come down from the house
to the deep undergrowth outside the fence,

fence that keeps his dogs inside, fence
the young bear this morning had pushed against, paws resting
on the steel diamond links as it looked

toward something the man couldn’t see inside the yard.
At the very click of the back door’s latch
that bear bolted away, looked back once

from the narrow gravel road, and was gone.
How, the man wonders, could the world become enough?
Or not the even world, but a stone, a stump, the song

of a bird he wondered at but would not
seek out, neither in the branches of trees
nor the leaves and plates of a field guide,

preferring to feather and flight the sourceless singing,
wanting less to unknow some words than their meanings.
The way “rose” also means the bare skin of a girl

ten billion blossoms ago, who’d undressed and let him
look and only look and look at her looking back.
He’d wanted to see the whole soft machine then, all the cogs

and stigmata. She wanted to see him seeing,
and that is what he remembers now, just the half-gone image
of his seeing, not what he saw, though today a twig dangles broken

from the bear’s going away, and now
a cool autumn wind sets the whole sprawling rose bush
nodding. It does not love

the bear or the birds or the man,
nor even the early bees that bob inside and pollinate its flowers.
What a perfect five-petaled plucked roulette

a wild rose must be: she could never love him not.
And if he knows this opulence of hips, this abundance
of fruit and seed, will surely lure another, braver bear,

who’ll take the fence and feast to its fill—
which in a bear is almost never—he also knows that
in the long winter’s sleep that’s coming, a bear too,

even the fullest, most sated of bears, will dream
and see as it could not in the midst of its feasting
all that is no longer there, those seeds of another hunger.


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