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Night of the Bear

by Jenny Bitner

I am hungry, hungry for your mouth
I cannot wait another moment

before me on the snow you spread out --
say You must open yourself completely

like tantalizing stars, like before
numbers, surrender and trust so sweet

you would have thought it was a baby
and not a bear picking me up with one paw --

we roll down the hill and under the pine
trees his hands so big, a storm

made of this love -- the gods turned people
into animals at whim. This bear

is scratching his claws in a tree stump
and then in my belly --

I look into the top of the pine tree
its maze and look a bird flying

into ice in the branches,
he says, this is like dying

he tells the girls Snow White and Rose
Red don't beat your lover dead

your father asleep on the hearth
it is not such a difference, flesh is

flesh, and even the animal
reacts to the blood.

draw back or pounce, admit I know
nothing of bears. This is a spirit

and I am in his mouth, whatever happens
between you and your daimon is

likely to turn over, frightened by our own hands
that can find exactly the spot

find the wound in a second
and the next my hands reaching through it

I see you in ways I only can as a lover,
and you see me in ways you only can

it is not necessary for all of us
at all times to wear all masks

I am wearing this one, moving my hands
through your skin, you are still, wounded

but strong. More afraid of your own
darkness than any in the world.


Jenny Bitner is our much-beloved, and now much-missed, retiring Poetry Editor. Her patience, inspiration, humor and ability will be fondly remembered. Jenny has been on the ATM staff for longer than many of us can even remember, and it won't be the same without her. Again, thanks for everything.

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