Inner Life

The bear stopped dancing & unscrewed his head.
He held it upside-down in the dusk. She reached
into her pouch for a copper piece, but instead
pulled out the silvery piece she’d been saving

for some special occasion. A limited issue,
stamped on one side with a profile of the prince;
on the other side a water wheel did not spin.
It glowed in her hand. Her hand grew heavy with it,

& the salts, & the bittersome oils of her hand.
Was this the occasion? The others were there
with their fists in their pouches & the weary bear
held out his head as if it were an offering

or an object lesson. It was neither. It was ripped,
with russet handfuls of animals’ hair pasted on
& a secret eye slit recessed in its open maw.
The wild old man in the bear suit parted his lips

& out came a snatch of extinct birdsong.
The musicians clapped. He’d learned it as a boy
growing up in the mist-proud interior
where he would call & call until the violet males

in a frenzy swooped into his breathtaking nets.

Srikanth Reddy, "Inner Life" from Facts for Visitors. Copyright © 2004 by the Regents of the University of California.  Reprinted by permission of The University of California Press.
Source: Facts for Visitors (University of California Press, 2004)
More Poems by Srikanth Reddy