Bears at Raspberry Time

By Hayden Carruth 1921–2008 Hayden Carruth
Fear. Three bears
are not fear, mother
and cubs come berrying   
in our neighborhood

like any other family.
I want to see them, or any   
distraction. Flashlight   
poking across the brook

into briary darkness,   
but they have gone,
noisily. I go to bed.   
Fear. Unwritten books

already titled. Some
idiot will shoot the bears
soon, it always happens,
they’ll be strung up by the paws

in someone’s frontyard   
maple to be admired and   
measured, and I'll be paid   
for work yet to be done—

with a broken imagination.   
At last I dream. Our
plum tree, little, black,   
twisted, gaunt in the

orchard: how for a moment   
last spring it flowered
serenely, translucently
before yielding its usual

summer crop of withered   
leaves. I waken, late,   
go to the window, look   
down to the orchard.

Is middle age what makes   
even dreams factual?
The plum is serene and   
bright in new moonlight,

dressed in silver leaves,
and nearby, in the waste
of rough grass strewn
in moonlight like diamond dust,

what is it?—a dark shape   
moves, and then another.   
Are they ... I can’t
be sure. The dark house

nuzzles my knee mutely,   
pleading for meaty dollars.   
Fear. Wouldn’t it be great   
to write nothing at all

except poems about bears?

Hayden Carruth, “Bears at Raspberry Time” from Collected Shorter Poems, 1946-1991. Copyright © 1992 by Hayden Carruth. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P. O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA 98368-0271,

Source: Collected Shorter Poems 1946-1991 (Copper Canyon Press, 1992)

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Poet Hayden Carruth 1921–2008

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Pets, Growing Old, Living, Relationships

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Hayden  Carruth


"Now and then a poet comes along whose work ranges across wide and diverse territories of form, attitude, and emotion—yet with the necessary intelligence that belies a deep, lifelong engagement with tradition—so that variance never seems mere experimentation or digression, but improvisation," wrote Midwest Quarterly contributor Matthew Miller. "Hayden Carruth is such an artist."

The National Book Award won by Carruth in 1996 . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Pets, Growing Old, Living, Relationships

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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