Tree Talk


A big black bear & 2 cubs

had hung around the firetower a week

         feeding on fiery red bearberries.

One morning the mountain exhaled a breeze.

Dandelion heads opened, ecstatic in sunshine.

One cub nuzzled her mother’s fur

         shiny in the northern salmon sun.

The other cub, with white patch on forehead

         nipped its sibling’s tiny feet.

I decided to bring out my grizzly bear skull,

a gift given me by a park warden

         after a female died

         from a tranquilizer dart.

With bear skull in my lap, I sat down

         on my cabin porch.

Suddenly, with bear skull exposed to the open air,

         the pine tree I was looking directly at

         started shaking furiously,

the only tree of two hundred in the yard

         moving at all.

The gentle breeze still blew all across

         the mountaintop

but somehow wind galloping like Pegasus

         rapped against this lone crooked pine.

The mother bear walked over

         & stood tall on hind legs

         staring with dark eyes at the tree

as I watched, curious & transfixed,

         from the porch,

         bear skull still in hand.

Who said bears had poor eyesight?

When the one-tree tempest stopped suddenly

        as it began,

Mama Bear fell to the ground

         feasting on sweet berries again and sniffing

         in the direction of my breathlessness.

Later I placed my bear skull long term

         into that aging tree.

The bear and I--

we rise like a windstorm

from deep hibernations

to witness these old trees talk.