Thursday, January 6, 2011

Polar Bear

My friend, Sandy Eastoak, had a poetry reading at one of my town's tea shops this evening. She read praise poems.

I particularly like this one, an arctic love story. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did.


polar bears

do you remember
ice fishing

it was maybe six
eight hundred years
ago

a happy life, that one
& simple

we met as children

watching each other
cautiously at
first then running
wild over the meadow
just emerging from piled
snow

small wildflowers
laughing as loud as
we singing
beside the new
rivulets
stomachs grumbling
for our forgotten
dinner

our families traveled
with different herds
so sometimes weeks would
pass then sometimes
you’d come with
mine or i’d go

they all winked
happy at our glad
games & looking toward
fertile

& it came

first ecstasy
then understanding
deeper & easier
season by season

& the small son
who rose the sun in
your eyes & made  you
silly

then the daughter
& you discovered how
your hands could
twist beauty everywhere
in bone fiber dye

she made you known
for craft that became
our people’s as you
taught

one winter day when our children
had grown beyond
we caught five fish against hunger
when the white bear came
we saved ourselves
by losing our
food

but your were angry
even your cool wisdom
left you crazy
over this one thieving
bear

we talked with death
in our lodge
& you went across
the frost hard ground
to meet him
just your knife
you’d carved magic
in the handle
i’d sung the
blade

you tracked the bear
& met him on
the ice
where you baited the
scene with new
fish

& when he came with
fangs roaring
you stood & spat
your secret words

i followed &
watched
the two of you
grappling

i lost the easy man
of innocence
& gained the bear man
of power

you cleaned the skin
& made the robe that
marked you
you gave the meat
to everyone & all
the dogs
songs & sparks
lit the long
night

i was a singer
now everyone wanted to hear
i glowed with
your honor
carried your light like the
sun in my two
hands

love lit winter
bright as midsummer
the taste of berries
was always on our
lips

our grandchildren
were favored & kept
faith with the people’s
fondness
each giving full

their broad smiles
made you laugh &
grow ever more
generous

after years you
weakened
one day you said
i will not pass
another winter
readied me, promising
to stay close
until i

one morning you
lay in my arms
counting every sky
wide & beautiful because
i was there
& i counted every
earth fragrant & solid
because of
you

you stayed close
the grandchildren
were happy to see me
talking with you
i missed your
body

seasons later
i said i’m going to your grandfather
walked over the ice
to find your bear’s
descendant

when she brought her
sharp teeth to my throat
i was already flying
glad & grateful
your welcome big
as the whole sky

do you remember
ice fishing

6 comments:

steven said...

wow! i really admire narrative poems - especially when they draw so much more than themselves into their words. the words become a means of moving deeper, beyond this world. thanks for sharing. steven

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, steven. Thanks. It occurred to me that this poem could serve as an outline for a whole novel. It's a lovely poem. I admire it too, partly because I've never been inspired to write a narrative poem.

neighbor said...

oh wow, I have goosebumps and tears and a full heart, reading this.

Is this Sandy's?
Wow.

Not that I could come to Sebastopol for an evening event, but if there's ever a daytime poetry thing going on, I'd love to know about it... wanna meet up sometime?

And I have an old narrative poem that I should dig out and post.

hmmm... maybe in a few days!

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, Neighbor,

Yes, it is Sandy's poem. She has written so many great poems.

This community is infused with poets. We have so many poets it's almost funny. There are a number of poetry salons in town. I'll ask at the next meeting of mine if you may join us. Okay? I would love to hear more of your poems. I hope you'll post your old narrative on your blog.

neighbor said...

Dan, you'll probably come across it on your 'blogroll' but I just put up the poem that Sandy's reminded me of - though now I question the narrative-ness of it :-)

I've never read at a poetry reading before (I took your desire to "hear" more of my poems literally, that is what you meant, right?) - so that would be quite an experience. Here in Davis the art/poetry scene seem too much like a "scene" (as in intimidating and "above" me, but if any of your fellow poetry-lovers-of-Sebastopol are like you, I would imagine a welcoming, compassionate group.

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, Neighbor. I enjoyed your poem. My desire to "hear" poetry is best understood to mean both live poetry readings AND listening to the poet's recording on blogger. Poems, are, I think, ideally auditory experiences.

Only since easy and cheap publication has been available has poetry been understood as primarily printed/read/visual art form. They ARE that, too, of course, but ideally a poem is heard, like music.