A skinned bear looks like a human. A shot bear
always falls on his back, like he’s looking
at heaven. Human bodies are also like another’s—
made in his image, it is said, by those who can believe
that after this world we will go on to another.
Making symbols, comparing one thing to the next,
then another, in all this familiar, comforting likening
I can forget where I began. That skinned body,
limbs spread for cutting, can I say now it looks like
it is ready for an angel’s flight?
But if we want allegory,
what of this finish?
When bears grow old and their teeth wear down
too far to tear, they come out of deep woods
into orchards to feed on apples, reaching up
for soft fruit with heavy paws. They stand
like humans. Are bears like humans, haunted
by deaths or the less definite and so ceaseless losses
that are love? Do bears too imagine understanding
that comes at the end, hope for redemption?
Now, in the orchards, in the open—this is the time
when it is easiest to see the bears, to get them
in the rifle’s sights.