bear in the national forest

when it gets dark
we remember
the bear: body so big
both of us could sleep
inside him, the lumbering
we know is all choice.
his mouth an oversized
version of our little black
dog, full of teeth kept sharp
by branch and bone.
nylon is the only barrier
between us and him. it isn’t
enough, but we pretend
it might be. we hear
the bear in everything.
we don’t know how to handle
this wild silence. we busy
ourselves with our hands,
lips as distraction but
nothing happens. the fear
is bigger than whatever
we mash between us. we are soft
naked and our nakedness
makes us feel more prey.
it’s easy to forget ourselves
as flesh, as something to eat
uncooked and wet in the night.
in the morning we find bear
scat outside our tent. in the bright
bird sounds of dawn we feel
untouchable again.

(2: unfinished)

the snake: in pieces / obachan: all one / her ankles spattered with dirt / or blood i imagined / would be some other color / more worthy of her fear / i have never been afraid / like this before, a fresh / soft horror: scales and flesh / thin tongue lolling / round head no venom no danger / to anything bigger than a fist



obachan standing, bloody
hoe in hand, eyes wide and wet
with fear or victory, four foot
black rat snake, no danger
to anything human,
cut to pieces at her feet.

first time i am scared
of this woman who loves me,
glad the garden tools sleep
outside. i touch the snake’s
lonely head and obachan
snaps in a voice from a different
throat. this moment she is
a mother again, gone the smoothed
corners of age.

she realizes
her ridiculousness: this
unreasonable violence.
the death around her feet
like the start of a garden.