Every night a bear comes round our house to scare up
some windfall pears or to forage for fragrant garbage,
trudging on soft-padded feet & slightly open-mouthed.
He's an ursine Tony Soprano, I think, seeking refuge
from autumnal hungers as he forages the town's alleys.
Burly as a nightclub bouncer, near-sighted, he browses
through our lives' detritus, appearing as a refugee
from day's ample shadows. Our bear noisily chases
a neighborhood cat, a disemboweler of mouses,
then he eats the worst types of underworld scum—
larval worms in day-glow trousers-food storehoused
in a huge belly that sways to & fro when he travels.
Despite his slovenly slouch, our bear's a marvel
of Mafia etiquette as he curses & wantonly carouses
in the dim byways of the forest, as he sways in raveling air
to snap the bark off trees with his tough teeth & calluses.
We curse the furry rampages of our famished bear
who's surely gotten high on gruff power as he struggles
to grip trashcan rims with iron fingers—ever roused
to action by brisk whiffs of winter or our ribald catcalls.
O made man, living drunk or dour, don't settle
for trudging on soft-padded feet, staying tight-hearted—
know, as I do, how fear & desire drive us all. Look how
nightly a bear circumambulates our lives with such ardor.
"Waste Management" by Maurya Simon from Cartographies: Uncollected Poems: 1980-2005. © Red Hen Press, 2008. (buy now)