1
In late winter
I sometimes glimpse bits of steam
coming up from
some fault in the old snow
and bend close and see it is lung-colored
and put down my nose
and know
the chilly, enduring odor of bear.
2
I take a wolf's rib and whittle
it sharp at both ends
and coil it up
and freeze it in blubber and place it out
on the fairway of the bears.
And when it has vanished
I move out on the bear tracks,
roaming in circles
until I come to the first, tentative, dark
splash on the earth.
And I set out
running, following the splashes
of blood wandering over the world.
At the cut, gashed resting places
I stop and rest,
at the crawl-marks
where he lay out on his belly
to overpass some stretch of bauchy ice
I lie out
dragging myself forward with bear-knives in my fists.
3
On the third day I begin to starve,
at nightfall I bend down as I knew I would
at a turd sopped in blood,
and hesitate, and pick it up,
and thrust it in my mouth, and gnash it down,
and rise
and go on running.
4
On the seventh day,
living by now on bear blood alone,
I can see his upturned carcass far out ahead, a scraggled,
steamy hulk,
the heavy fur riffling in the wind.
I come up to him
and stare at the narrow-spaced, petty eyes,
the dismayed
face laid back on the shoulder, the nostrils
flared, catching
perhaps the first taint of me as he
died.
I hack
a ravine in his thigh, and eat and drink,
and tear him down his whole length
and open him and climb in
and close him up after me, against the wind,
and sleep.
5
And dream
of lumbering flatfooted
over the tundra,
stabbed twice from within,
splattering a trail behind me,
splattering it out no matter which way I lurch,
no matter which parabola of bear-transcendence,
which dance of solitude I attempt,
which gravity-clutched leap,
which trudge, which groan.
6
Until one day I totter and fall—
fall on this
stomach that has tried so hard to keep up,
to digest the blood as it leaked in,
to break up
and digest the bone itself: and now the breeze
blows over me, blows off
the hideous belches of ill-digested bear blood
and rotted stomach
and the ordinary, wretched odor of bear,
blows across
my sore, lolled tongue a song
or screech, until I think I must rise up
and dance. And I lie still.
7
I awaken I think. Marshlights
reappear, geese
come trailing again up the flyway.
In her ravine under old snow the dam-bear
lies, licking
lumps of smeared fur
and drizzly eyes into shapes
with her tongue. And one
hairy-soled trudge stuck out before me,
the next groaned out,
the next,
the next,
the rest of my days I spend
wandering: wondering
what, anyway,
was that sticky infusion, that rank flavor of blood, that poetry, by which I lived?
 
From A New Selected Poems by Galway Kinnell, published by Houghton Mifflin. © 2000 by Galway Kinnell. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Poems by This Author

After Making Love We Hear Footsteps by Galway Kinnell
For I can snore like a bullhorn
Neverland by Galway Kinnell
Oatmeal by Galway Kinnell
I eat oatmeal for breakfast
Saint Francis and the Sow by Galway Kinnell
The bud
Why Regret? by Galway Kinnell
Didn't you like the way the ants help


Further Reading

Poems About Animals and Pets
27,000 Miles
by Albert Goldbarth
from The Kitten and Falling Leaves
by William Wordsworth
I Am! Said the Lamb [excerpt]
by Theodore Roethke
Jubilate Agno, Fragment B, [For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry]
by Christopher Smart
A Crocodile
by Thomas Lovell Beddoes
A List of Praises
by Anne Porter
A Noiseless Patient Spider
by Walt Whitman
Animals and Art
by Ron Padgett
At Bay
by Carl Phillips
At the Zoo
by William Makepeace Thackeray
Bats
by Paisley Rekdal
Darwin's Finches
by Deborah Digges
Eletelephony
by Laura Elizabeth Richards
Epitaph to a Dog
by George Gordon Byron
Flamingo Dreams
by William Saphier
Freedom in Ohio
by Jennifer Chang
From the Canal
by Michael Dickman
Gila
by Rigoberto González
Goldfish Are Ordinary
by Stacie Cassarino
Grasshopper
by Ron Padgett
Hawk
by Daniel Waters
Ho Ho Ho Caribou
by Joseph Ceravolo
horse vision
by Julian T. Brolaski
How Doth the Little Busy Bee
by Isaac Watts
Journey aka OR7
by Gerard Malanga
Leda and the Swan
by W. B. Yeats
Maine Seafood Company
by Matthew Dickman
Me and the Otters
by Dorothea Lasky
Mole
by Wyatt Prunty
Nonsense Alphabet
by Edward Lear
On Viewing the Skull and Bones of a Wolf
by Alexander Posey
Orkney Interior
by Ian Hamilton Finlay
Prayer from a Mouse
by Sarah Messer
Psalm
by George Oppen
Quiet the Dog, Tether the Pony
by Marilyn Chin
Skunk Hour
by Robert Lowell
Testy Pony
by Zachary Schomburg
The Armadillo
by Elizabeth Bishop
The Barnacle and the Gray Whale
by Cecilia Llompart
The Caterpillar
by Robert Graves
The Crocodile
by Lewis Carroll
The Dusk of Horses
by James Dickey
The Eagle
by Lord Alfred Tennyson
The Fly
by William Blake
The Future is an Animal
by Tina Chang
The Heavy Bear Who Goes With Me
by Delmore Schwartz
The Lorca Variations (XXVIII)
"For Turtles"

by Jerome Rothenberg
The Moose
by Elizabeth Bishop
The Paper Nautilus
by Marianne Moore
The Parakeets
by Alberto Blanco
The Purple Cow
by Gelett Burgess
The Return
by Frances Richey
The Snail
by William Cowper
The Tyger
by William Blake
The Windhover
by Gerard Manley Hopkins
Thing
by Rae Armantrout
To a Mouse,
by Robert Burns
Toad
by Diane Seuss
Turn of a Year
by Joan Houlihan
Wild Gratitude
by Edward Hirsch
Wilderness
by Carl Sandburg
Woodchucks
by Maxine Kumin
Poems about Resilience
An Old Cracked Tune
by Stanley Kunitz
Birdcall
by Alicia Suskin Ostriker
Immigrant Blues
by Li-Young Lee
In California During the Gulf War
by Denise Levertov
Our Bodies Break Light
by Traci Brimhall
Reasons To Survive November
by Tony Hoagland
Travelling Against
by Karen Houle
What is Broken is What God Blesses
by Jimmy Santiago Baca
You Can't Survive on Salt Water
by Kalamu ya Salaam
Zulu
by Jen Benka
More Like This
On Poetry and Craft [excerpt]
by Theodore Roethke
All She Wrote
by Harryette Mullen
An Exhortation
by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Anybody Can Write a Poem
by Bradley Paul
Dawn
by James Laughlin
Dear J.
by Kazim Ali
Ephemeral Stream
by Elizabeth Willis
Epistle: Leaving
by Kerrin McCadden
Friend,
by Jean Valentine
From Trance Notebook #2 [nerdy questions about exact pitch]
by Wayne Koestenbaum
Hospital Writing Workshop
by Rafael Campo
In Portraits in Seasons
by Danielle Pafunda
In the old days a poet once said
by Ko Un
Inert Perfection
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Language
by W. S. Merwin
Leo Said
by Eileen Myles
Light (an Ars Poetica)
by Michael Cirelli
Lines on Nonsense
by Eliza Lee Follen
Night School
by Micah Ballard
Night Theater
by Meena Alexander
Poetry
by Monica Ferrell
Poetry
by Alfred Kreymborg
Poetry
by Marianne Moore
Poetry
by Amy Lowell
Poetry is
by Emilio Villa
Potentially Interesting & Secretly Devastating
by Tina Brown Celona
Q & A
by Terence Winch
Render, Render
by Thomas Lux
Scandal
by Lola Ridge
Sky Burial
by Ron Koertge
so you want to be a writer?
by Charles Bukowski
Te Deum
by Charles Reznikoff
The Gift
by Chard deNiord
The Language of Love
by Rodney Jones
The Novel as Manuscript
by Norman Dubie
The Politics of Narrative: Why I Am A Poet
by Lynn Emanuel
Time Study
by Marvin Bell
To a Young Poet
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
What He Thought
by Heather McHugh
what it means to be avant-garde [excerpt]
by David Antin
While Writing
by Noelle Kocot
Why Poetry Can Be Hard For Most People
by Dorothea Lasky