The Dancing Bear
Daniel Corrie

                You have shown me an image
                of strange prisoners.



In some fashion, they taught the bear to dance,
to guzzle Cokes and beers, to swallow cigarettes.
Kept in a cage beside the Texaco, it brought in customers.
Or lost in that cage beneath the stars,
it sprawled in drunken sleep with restless dreams,
clawing at nothing or clawing
at all Mississippi.


Last night’s storm broke down
the old elm.  Again, chaos paused to give a clue.
Little’s to be done,
except for roots to change
into the earth they’d known.
I’ll guide its former height,
shepherding it to firewood and smoke.

One dream of God draws in
His bees and kestrels to His hill.
At any moment He threatens
to mend a few of them
by His cleansing touch or by an unleashed night,
too soon again.

Too soon to learn our lessons, even
for a life instilled with grace enough
to bless a cell it can’t venture from
or to comprehend the random visitor who tarries
to feed a burning cigarette
through a cage’s padlocked gate.


Again for me, page by page,

Plato imagines
he is imagining
the really real.  The words
might become worlds, again,
for a while.

For me, drowsy with reading,
my shoulder blades propped
against the bed’s headboard,

his womb-cave of words
shifts with his prisoners

sprawled in their chains, their backs propped
against rock, slouched as in dream,
eyes following shadows
crossing his dream-cave’s gritty wall. 
Word-ink rises from depths

of a page’s paper shallows.  Beyond ink-shadows,
the page is white as the blinding
scrim of perfection’s glare.

Other days I’ve read
ink’s black letters blotting

into red, again bleeding
the upraised voice

of a doer of miracles, young sojourner

from perfection’s placeless place
of timeless time,

man-god preaching on a hill

until a later page’s ink of scripture
will raise him beyond
worldly wounds.

Sometimes you’ll ask words to tell you                     
why this suffering?

Sometimes you’ll hear wordlessness repeating

cancer’s X-ray shadow
Alzheimer’s ceaseless dream
the sleeper’s veering car

spilled milk, spilled blood

spilled randomness

Sometimes wordlessness is repeating

giving suffering
to each other

as inheritance, as legacy

as blind doing as choice

The wordlessness will be repeating
how does the twisted body
untwist its seeing?

how does the twisted life
untwist its living?


My child’s vocabulary
couldn’t catch the words
to think unholy
how unholy you look out at me

until I recollect a childish way of gazing
upon some brute unholiness

as commonplace,  
one of the roadside freakshows
beyond a ditch where cars speed past, 

great darkness growling groggily
beyond the cyclone fence −
safely, safely locked away, it seemed −
where my young parents,                                           
grown tired from traveling,
stretch their legs and hold my hand,

suddenly swept far
beyond the high and dark blue dome
of memory.

I see us,
three shadows in twilight,
near our bad dreams’ fence‑line
laughing and pointing.


In sleep’s currents, I feel
ink and starlessness ripple
through the black

of my pupils widening.
Blackness pours, shivering, its thick
fur flowing.
In umbra’s deepening,
I hear the bear

emerging − rumbling
I am

you I am
of all

the scouring selves
beyond your cage
of self

come into me   

into the river river hunting
tirelessly over rocks

as I hunt
through its wash
salmon’s need hunting
for the feeling of someplace
spawning through
scales, fins, gills

through push, thrust, leap to push

as the salmon to thrust
to leap
as the salmon

through river’s roar
river arching,
its back bristling 

in cascading,

twisting in sun into
translucence, through

the hunting world

The hour is cool in mud’s bed,
when the victory of spray
creams through water
over the viscous eggs of the salmon.

Eggs drink in, dreaming in
their own outset under the shadows
of the siring shapes tiring

as bright scales dull, suddenly sickly,
peeling away, their suddenness
peeling away.


Sometimes like horizon’s distant, muffled thunder,
the bear’s wordlessness whispers

can you answer?

can you make more out of time
than time’s cage?


Sometimes the bear’s wordlessness whispers

leave yourself

leave your cage

come into me where
there is no answer

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