Tuesday, November 18, 2014

"Something always comes through."

Ducks can hang out in very cold water, and were doing so this morning,
after we took my brother to the airport.
I love the monotones of this untreated color image.

In this icy time, I found a copy to purchase of Sarah Bernhardt's Leg, by David Kirby.
This is one of my all-time-favorite books of poems, but I had never owned a copy.
I picked it to buy for the Gilroy Library when it first came out--
I was attracted first by the title and then by the reviews. 
It is every bit as delicious as the title promises. Here is the first poem from the book:

The Bear

A bear came to our house one day in the spring.
He sniffed the seats of the chairs and put his head
in the refrigerator. We offered him pork chops
and hamburger patties, but he preferred cereal
and toaster waffles drenched with syrup.

We tried to interest him in an animal show on television,
but he wanted to watch a soap opera.
He sat with his paws in his lap and pretended not to cry,
but big tears rolled from his eyes
and dripped from the fur on his chin.

He stayed on until the evening,
and at cocktail time we poured him a saucer of gin,
which he lapped at cautiously at first and then with gusto.
He liked our bed because the mattress was soft,
so we slept on the floor.

As the days went by,
he grew more philosophical and introspective
while we became more bearish, rolling about sluggishly
or snapping at the slightest provocation.
After several weeks we moved out altogether.

All summer long we have been catching fish with our bare hands
and raiding bee hives. Now the leaves are beginning to turn
and we are getting our cave ready for the long sleep.
It will be our first winter, and we are apprehensive;
what if we don't wake in the spring?

Meanwhile, we shuffle down to the edge of the forest sometimes
and watch the bear go to work, dressed in my old clothes.
He has learned to drive,
though the car lurches and stalls a lot.
We have met some of his friends and we like them very much.

though several of them resent us.
thinking we planned the whole thing ourselves.
Yet we would have gone on forever in the old ways
had the bear not taken our place.
We owe everything to the bear---that much is certain.

Often at night we talk about the bear
and wonder if he thinks about us at all,
if he moves down the days with nothing on his mind
or looks up at the door from time to time as we did.
Now we know. Something always comes through.

David Kirby
Sarah Bernhardt's Leg; poems by David Kirby,
Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 1983, pages 8-9.

It must take a very thoughtful and observant person to write a poem so full of so much understanding.

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