Category Archives: Bear Poems

BEARDEATHDANCE (Bear Poems, 3)

for Morris C. and Ruth M. G. Cooper

The cubs are all grown, gone their own ways now.
They only saw their father really dance

once, but maybe they learned something, maybe
they believed when he said he never fell,
swearing we mustn’t fall, no matter why.

When we were courting, he’d tell me, “We fell,
we bears, we fell from the sky. Men don’t know.

We fell from the north before they came there.
We lost the knowledge of how to be stars
before ever they found us. We fell once,

long and dreadful, wrenching fire from our limbs.
Dark now, fur is our only remembrance

of the pattern of light and flame streaming
away in the cold wind of our passage.
Dark and dreaded, we dare not fall again,

we dare not forget more.” These words I loved
when he spoke them, as I loved all the dance

of our courtship — spinning beneath the sky,
he’d hold me in his arms and in my eyes
he saw stars, my white flesh reminding him

of the starmother they had left. He kissed
my whiteness for love remembered, not lost;

he gave me stars to wear; he tangled them,
when we were loving, in my hair. I loved
him as well later when I bore his cubs

with all the pain and marvel which attends
the birthbed of such a union. We told

our cubs tales, sang them songs, taught them dances.
Of these, the greatest gift was dance. I loved
them all even when the dance lumbered, slowed;

I loved him as well when he danced alone.
He knew his last dance when it came. His flesh

had burned itself out, his voice was all ash
and grit. No gristle, no growl, he whispered
wildness into the forest, needles, leaves.

A skeleton wearing a rug, he danced
over it, around it and passed it on,

danced alone whispering the tall trees’ names.
If I meant to cry, I’d not have wed him.
He never fell, I swear, he tried to climb

and died with his arms in the branches
of a twisted wind-bowed pine. He was gone

long before the husk tumbled like a cone
battered and frayed to the ground. He had said
years before that he wanted to take trees

with him to the sky, to the stars, when he
left to go home. He would wonder how stars

could dance without trees around them, and then
we would lay together watching the stars
and waving branches late into the night.

He was so painwearied before he danced
that last. I’ll not forget to tell the cubs

what words he left. He grunted that the stars
were vast, the stars were leaning over him.
I looked, and when I looked back he had grasped

the treetrunk. He could hardly stand. I could
hardly hear him. He said something about

his mother, then a great glistening tongue
licking and licking at his weary mind.
I looked away again, into the dark,

the formless dark between the stars, then heard
and felt the sigh before the breaking branch.

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BEARBRIDE (Bear Poems, 2)

When I first saw you,
in the starless dark at summer’s beginning
(shadow, stubble, and eyes),
this was not what I then dreamt.

I dreamt Beauty’s Beast,
transformed through the fingertip power of love.
Seeing your kindness, I
forgot the story went on.

When you turned you back,
padding furred and black into the night, I knew
some other time would come
without my following you.

So I waited well,
without understanding what was left to fear,
turning myself back to dance,
hair swirling in other’s eyes.

Now, you have returned.
Now, I am a foolish virgin, unprepared
for the grimace and grunt,
for the wild light in your eyes,

for your clawtipped reach.
I had not thought of what all that weight would mean.
I had not thought, not dreamt
of a dark beast untransformed.

As grass bends beneath
your broad belly, a fluted frightened mewling
escapes my tongue, my throat
liquid sound twined in itself.

I had not known I
was such a child to still be afraid of dark.
Perhaps we always are.
It seems more than I can do,

to reach to touch you
willingly, love you in whom I believed not.
I back into branches,
forest holding me under

the leafed canopy
where I await the kiss of your ungroomed mouth.
The transformation is
unexpected, unforeseen.

My flesh veiled with fur,
my touch newly weighty, my gown torn. I grow
dark, darker, exhaling
a breath thicker than red wine,
the glass of my hand shattered.

BEARGLANCE (Bear Poems, 1)

No one would have believed her. That was fine
because she wasn’t telling anyone.
There was no one to tell.

Where would she have looked for someone to tell?
Nearest town was about a two hour drive;
nearest neighbor an hour.

Youngest daughter of a farm family
backed up against the edge of God-knows-where,
she had long ago learned

to keep anything to herself that was
unexpected and not a disaster.
She, for a while, thought

they knew, and silently tolerated
her nightly climb down the fast growing pines
of the tall dark windbreak.

Later she decided they didn’t know,
and wouldn’t guess because none of them would
or could have thought of it.

The first time he came by,
she hung back under the trees, in shadow.
It was no use. She still knew he saw her.

They just looked at each other for a while,
then he turned his back and left, across fields
and into the forest.