Thursday, July 27, 2017

yearling, then a mama with two cubs


out in Yellowstone we looked for bear, hoped for bear,
and we saw a beautiful cinnamon black bear for several minutes
until it wandered away into the woods,

here in the Smokies we’ve hiked high and low,
and our hiking world has not touched the bears’ foraging world,
then Tuesday, midday, I spotted a yearling black bear down the road,
I saw legs through the trees
and figured it was probably a person,
yet I hoped for bear, and, as I got a better view, there he was!
lean and hungry, glossy fur and keen eyes,
I followed him around the neighborhood,

snapping pictures with abandon,
being careful to be quiet and relatively still,
though once I did not retreat enough as he came towards me,
and he gave me a warning snuffle and step forward,
a yapping dog finally got him to lope into another neighborhood,

hours pass, and I look out the utility room window—a mother bear with two cubs!
I snap picture after picture of the beautiful lean cubs,
who snuffle in the ivy and jump up into a tree
when mama snorts a caution at them,

I love the shots I got of a cub standing up,
checking out the world, 
sometimes pawing with its front legs onto mama,
a neighbor’s dog starts to bark,
so mama hustles them all away,

across the creek, using logs as ramps to help,

they meander away,
and I want to shout with celebration
of seeing “yanu” so close,
the bears the Cherokee remember as kin
who chose the forest way over the human.

by Henry H. Walker
July 25, ’17

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