James Owens

Woman and Bear


An ordinary day.  The second of November. The sunlight
is thin and cool, just enough to sketch pale shadows of branches

on the fallen leaves. I would like to say this light is filmy
and sleek, like some undergarment tossed aside in a hurry,

puddled silk on the floor of the sky, but it isn’t --
I am only wishing for you. Across the street,

the council of starlings debates hunger in a tall maple.  
Somewhere colder, the bear you met by the river tears apart a rotting log

for a meal of white grubs, plunging claws in the soft wood,
fattening himself, as winter begins to glow around his heart.

The bear is real. That querulous note when you told
of woman and hump-shouldered, hungry bear

staring at each other across the water, tensing --
if not for the pain, you said, what a glorious death --

that same slant music seems to quaver here beneath the trees
when a cloud passes. If we must die, and we must,

why not silted into the warm fat of a wintering bear?
I wanted to lift your hips to me like a wooden bowl.

Do you see how knowing your transience
makes this a love poem? At once, for no reason,

the whole flock of starlings glitters, unfurls from the tree,
reels squabbling twice around the yard, and settles back.

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