Michele Stepto

The Unfinished Poem 

It is not like seeing a bear loping across your path
ahead of you on the road
in the evening light

its fur rippling over its muscles and blacker than the dark
coming on, as black as licorice
or anthracite

as it finds its opening into the twilit woods and you idly
wonder what errand this moderate
hurry might

serve and whether this particular bear, however black
he might seem, could possibly be
the Norwegian White

Bear King ambling the woods toward the castle
and the princess waiting there, waiting
so they write

to marry a bear and change him back into a man
after sleeping with him (no questions asked
and never catching sight

of his true shape) for three or four nights (just feeling his fur
in the dark, silky and soft and
neither black nor white)

or else that Penobscot boy who got lost in the woods
and was taken in by a family of bears who
loved him despite

his being human, though he wasn’t that for long, not
after the bear hair sprouted and grew and
covered him up right

down to his plantigrade feet, so that one morning when he caught
a salmon between his teeth and ate it
raw and at first bite

began to bark with joy, just like a bear, his new
mama looked on with pride
at the sight

of this child of hers with his silky hair and his funny snout
and his sharp, sharp eyes
not quite

a bear yet, but coming along nicely, she thought.

Michele Stepto‘s work has appeared online at Verse-Virtual, What Rough Beast (at Indolent Books), NatureWriting, Mirror Dance Fantasy and Lacuna Journal.