A Bear Is Not Just A Bear

By Diana Elser

1
In Denver a big, blue bear
five stories high
stands upright,
carved paws braced
against the glass
convention center wall,
peering through reflections –
looking for The New West
he’s heard about.

I rise tall on my only legs,
sniff the wind like he does,
seeking some translation
of past to present,
myth to circumstance,
looking to balance
losses of family and land
against what’s left to discover,
setting myself against
a bleak wind
shaking the house,
loosing memories
into sky and space,
where storms boil up
on a long horizon,
and there’s room to feel small.

It’s what isn’t here
that counts.

2
I invite Bear for a drink,
tell him I’m buying,
we need to talk.
As long as I don’t have
to sit on a stool, he says.
I get him drunk
on honey and ginger martinis
and tell him I wanna’ hang out.
Being drunk, he says sure
and we ramble off, discussing what
might make a good a roadtrip
theme song. He likes
On the Road Again
while I’m pushing for Take It Easy.
We have a lot to do
I tell him, and he says yup,
I’m hungry again.
That’s not what I mean,
but he says we’ll talk–
after dinner.

3
I tell him that wherever
fence goes up
to keep the buffalo
where someone decides
they have to stay,
he and I will cut wire,
let them run – that
I halfway wish
they’d thunder over our bones.
Speak for yourself, he grunts.
Bear mainly wants
to eat better, and often.

We’re bringing back
the wolf too, I say.
Bear says I’m crazy,
he doesn’t need
that kind of help, says
the trouble with you is,
you don’t sleep long enough
in the winter. He thinks
I ought to roll in the dust
more often, learn to flip
trout one-handed, help him
get berries and grubs,
since me and mine owe him.

4
Then he catches me
collecting inedibles, again –
remnants I explain, of shapes
I’m sure I see,
hovering in blue mist
over curling rivers.
I confess to Bear I pray
for our diminishment,
my species, I mean,
and Bear says
you need to talk less.
I point out talking
is the only thing
that’s saving his tribe
from extinction.
He huffs, swings his head
side to side, lopes off.

We didn’t speak for a long time.

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