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Bruins, A Triptych

Posted: March 30, 2011 - 7:20am

Bruins, A Triptych

By Jamie Foley

I

You knit wool hats while seated

in the passenger seat —

some with tassels,

some green,

some shades of tan.

I drive the Alberta prairies

stretching for miles before us

like ocean.

You’ll be with me until Calgary.

There you’ll get on a plane

returning home.

Me,

I’ll keep driving

until Montreal

and then south.

We camp each nightfall.

The last we’ll stay in a hotel

with TV,

eat a roasted chicken,

drink a bottle of wine.

Stopping off at Liard hot springs

our first night out,

we pitch the tent and eat

heartily from tins —

oysters and sardines,

some cheddar cheese,

an apple.

That evening we soak

in the sulfur pools

with old men and women.

The latter wear bathing caps

and flowery one-piece bathing suits.

Talking in hushed tones,

the men solitary,

somber

under the cover

of birch trees,

ferns curve out of

peated soil.

Under midnight sun,

walking back along a boardwalk

over wild flowers and clear,

shallow spring water,

I think of the bear.

I think about telling you,

but decide better against it.

The vision of it pulling

that woman out of a tree

killing her

in this beautiful place

last spring.

II

Like silent mausoleums,

they stand,

barely moving in grass —

beautiful, thin, reedy

grass, noisy as I move

through it, clicking, clacking

against my thighs.

Aware of their presence,

on alert I advance

to open field to find

mother and adolescent

eating the moist shoots

unperturbed,

singular in their task.

The mother lifts her head

imperceptibly sniffing the breeze,

resumes grazing.

Her mountainous

brown and golden back

reflects the afternoon

sunlight.

She could charge me,

if threatened,

pull back

her ears,

the cowling

of hair on her neck

raised

and if she decided

to attack,

she could

break my neck

from the initial impact —

bone against muscle,

of fur.

III

You tell me in your

most assertive tone,

“Jamie, I’ve never

seen a brown bear

this close; I’m rolling

down my window.”

We’ve just pulled out

of a gas station along

the Canadian Highway,

our cups of tea steaming

in holders between us.

The brown bear meanders

almost drunkenly in a field —

I pull over to the shoulder.

Unable to see us,

probably smelling us instead,

it moves more concertedly,

expectantly

towards the car.

Suddenly

I remember the open

wrappers of food —

peanut butter cookies,

sliced apples,

smoked salmon

in the back seat.

“Jane, he’s getting a bit close.”

I glance one more time,

my attention split

between pressing the button

to Jane’s window

and maneuvering

the car back onto the highway.

This, I can still see —

beady, black eyes,

nostrils flared,

raised head,

broad shoulders

rolling up the embankment,

quickening

and the possibility of Jane’s face

pressed up against glass.

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