THE BEAR'S POEM

Like a bear clawing cuneiform
high as he can up the trunk of a tree,
the poet extends himself,
reaches to rise above himself
to bare the depth of his sensitivity.
Like a bear ranging the wood,
testing this treetrunk and that
the poet seeks his subject,
scratching here and there as though
to tempt the muse to show him bark
with deeper meaning.
And where lies meaning, where lies greatness,
where lies glory for a bear,
such that he would make his mark,
display his need to strive for something
more profound or beautiful than other bears?
And where lies meaning for the poet?
Is there greatness, is there glory
in the ancient furrows carved
upon the oak of Purgatory?
Is there something in the sweet
and subtle web of sonnets' wordlace,
in the somber midnight sadness
of a broken heart's lament
to set one bear above the rest?
Are there ursine limmericks, doggerel, or rap,
impressions gayly improvised
upon a napkin-scrap of sapling siezed
upon the moment, meaningless?
Whatever meaning means,
is not the meaning in the moment,
for poet or for bear?
If there be such thing as glory,
surely it is not like fame,
a legend of a giant bear
whose marks rise farther out of reach
with every year the tree grows older.
No, the glory, and the beauty,
and the poetry are in the reach,
and in the scratch, and in whatever
itch it is that drives us.
And as for greatness, wonder, awe,
for all our wit or strength of claw,
can any one of us say more than,
"Here I was, and this I saw"?

1995 by James Nathan Post