30 Poems I Am Most Proud Of #14

Walking Alone In Bear Country is a poem which I wrote shortly after the death of Lance Crosby, a 63 years old hiker who was killed by a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park in August 2015. The bear – which happened to have cubs – was euthanized. The scale of the controversy following her death was monumental.

Walking Alone In Bear Country

A vast, untouched blueberry patch

brings him off the trail.

 

He picks several handfuls,

chomps them down.

 

He licks juice from between

his fingers.

 

Pines loom, shaman of the deep woods.

 

They observe his journey,

ceremonial in their still silence.

 

His unmarked way becomes hazy

with blossom and bugs.

 

He smacks a mosquito, rubs

its remains from the inner fold

of his elbow.

 

Solid humming reminds

him there are many millions more.

 

He pulls out bug spray.

Empties the can over his skin.

He’s not thinking beyond this moment.

 

In his rucksack, a baguette with cheese

wrapped in wax paper sweats.

 

He moves in deeper.

 

The sow listens, catches sound

of something coming from downriver.

 

She stands her ground, this strong

mother, above her fifth litter.

 

They are but months

old and curious.

 

The kill is from behind.

She is swift and she is silent.

 

Blood whispers from his neck

wound, and the cubs dance

in the mysterious red rain.

 

Mother bear eats until her belly

is hard and big and bold.

 

The cubs eat cautiously at first,

then with gusto, thrusting their little heads

into the cavity of his torso, and pulling

back out again, gore in their ears

gore on their eyelashes.

 

As the sun tongues the land

for the last time, Mother bear drags

debris from trees over what’s left

of the carcass.

 

And the family move away, eyes glossy.

 

From the moment she heard his footfall,

Mother was a dead bear walking, and her cubs

destined to lose everything she had taught them.

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