The Bear

By Susan Mitchell b. 1944 Susan Mitchell
Tonight the bear
comes to the orchard and, balancing
on her hind legs, dances under the apple trees,   
hanging onto their boughs,
dragging their branches down to earth.   
Look again. It is not the bear
but some afterimage of her
like the car I once saw in the driveway
after the last guest had gone.
Snow pulls the apple boughs to the ground.   
Whatever moves in the orchard—
heavy, lumbering—is clear as wind.

The bear is long gone.
Drunk on apples,
she banged over the trash cans that fall night,   
then skidded downstream. By now
she must be logged in for the winter.
Unless she is choosy.
I imagine her as very choosy,
sniffing at the huge logs, pawing them, trying   
each one on for size,
but always coming out again.

Until tonight.
Tonight sap freezes under her skin.
Her breath leaves white apples in the air.   
As she walks she dozes,
listening to the sound of axes chopping wood.   
Somewhere she can never catch up to   
trees are falling. Chips pile up like snow   
When she does find it finally,
the log draws her in as easily as a forest,   
and for a while she continues to see,   
just ahead of her, the moon
trapped like a salmon in the ice.

Susan Mitchell, “The Bear” from The Water Inside the Water. Copyright © 1983 by Susan Mitchell. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press.

Source: The Water Inside The Water (Wesleyan University Press, 1983)

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Poet Susan Mitchell b. 1944

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Nature, Animals

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Biography

Susan Mitchell is the author of three collections of poetry, The Water Inside the Water (1983); Rapture (1992), winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and a finalist for the National Book Award; and Erotikon (2000). Her poems have appeared in magazines and journals such as the New Yorker, the Atlantic Monthly, Fence, among others. The recipient of three Pushcart Prizes, Mitchell’s other awards include fellowships from the . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Animals

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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