artwork: ralph murre
THE LAST BEAR
by Kris Thacher
It’s high tide in the desert;
The full moon pulls at the dust.
Ghost waves lap at fossil fish
Time-trapped in the stones.
I’m the last bear on
. South Mountain
I search through the frozen moonlight.
My soft-padded paws trace a pathway
Through the forest of dead pinyons.
The Salt Mission brine lakes shimmer
Under the rising light, a mirage of long-lost oceans,
Floating, void of water,
out on the mesa’s edge.
I need just one last feeding, just one last cooling drink
I long to slip into winter’s sleep but
My empty belly’s full of withered fruit
Gathered from the frost-dry grass
Long flocks of Sandhill cranes
Crossing the Hunter’s Moon, pour in from the north,
They call out promises of water and grains
Down below the southern horizon.
I raise my head and listen to the fulsome promises of birds
I shake my head. I growl, “Bears can’t fly away.”
My nose seeks for stunted acorns
Hidden in the broken leaves.
The star bears sparkle in the night above
Little Bear dances on the Big Bear’s back.
But the Big Dipper pours only polar light
Into the dry arroyos.
I listen in the silence, to my slow single heart.
I know I’ll sleep alone
My cubs, shot dead, for eating fallen apples,
In the dusk of the summer drought.
I will not listen to those pilgrim birds
I have no praise, no thanksgiving for my final, solitary feast
I gnaw on my paws; I drink dry air, and
Close my eyes to sleep, from dreams I will never awaken.
~ previously published in A Slender Thread (Little Eagle Press)