The river in winter: snow,
a white heart falling, splintering
into its icy selves,
streams delivering their chill,
the unsung verse of a song she used to know.
If only she could remember, the white
ribbon of thought could make it whole,
bring out the god in this wilderness.
They had wanted a scapegoat,
a person, a reason for sorrow. At first,
she had been unwilling, had her doubts.
But now she sees they’ll drive themselves mad
without some comfort.
So she walks this river hardened past the solstice,
a crust over water flowing dark as coal,
to enter the dream of the bear
in its cave somewhere in these hills,
to be like the salmon
laboring its way in the shallows,
a muscle of fear glinting in the sun,
the bear’s first meal.
Bear of my grieving,
Bear of hate and fear,
Bear, on the edge of sleep,
do not enter that blackness fattened
into lethargy, dulled by the cold.
Let the dream come back in new form
as matter reshapes itself according
to its state.
How softly she treads.
Her senses ready themselves
to the slightest shifting.
She walks on water, prepared
to ease its flow, alter its course,
sure now of what she has chosen:
a way to retrieve beauty, savor
love, enter the bear’s dark heart.