Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Bear Hunters \ Burning The Barren Ground

Alan: As a non-hunter, it took me awhile to notice that hunting, around here, is an essentially social act.
The Bear Hunters
The man in the bear suit
lies at full stretch beside the road
on his side, with his nose in weeds,
one hand twisted under,
his broad feet splayed
while the man in plaid flannel
bends and prepares to insert
and twist the tag
and start to cut open
the belly.
Other men, a handful, stand around
aimlessly, wanting to be part of
the scene, to not have business
an inconsequential back road
taking on, for a few minutes
through their attentiveness and witness
an air of drama or at the least
Pickup trucks, six or seven,
line the gravel, two with drivers still
at the wheels
as if watching
a drive-in movie.
There is something almost pinched
about their eagerness
as if they feel a gnawing
in the gut.
Only the man at work
and the bear, who has an expression
of something that has not yet got used
to being dead,
look unhungry.
There are traditions
in which it is said that hunters
return in their next lives
as what they have killed, when,
not remembering exactly,
but having a sort of fading image
of what they were before,
they are drawn, curious, or careless,
to the very places of danger
and the men who now hunt them,
and so are killed, in a sense,
at their own hands or, as good as,
hands like those they once had.
Whether or not this is true
there is, on the faces of the men at the roadside,
something enough like a bear’s insatiable hard stare
that it might be possible to think
they could almost be wondering
when the one who has now commenced skinning
will finish,
pull on the thick black pelt
and take off running
into the woods.
Nancy: Hundreds and hundreds of acres of rolling, stony uplands left by the glacier and now covered with Maine blueberries.  It all gets burned every other year.
Burning The Barren Ground
fire running everywhere
men whipping it on, their magic
out in the Phoenix gardens
fire all day
veins of fire running out in the dusk
dying between the stones
What if the women made magic?
Never told anyone?
Today, raining
the fields all sard and onyx after the burn
wet, shining
too early yet for a rising
just stony black fields
naked red stems
silver veins of rain
“Burning The Barren Ground” first appeared in Slow Dancer magazine.