“There is no record of a living bear of the grizzly species in California — the state whose emblem is the Great Golden Bear — since 1922.”Bessie Doak Haynes and Edgar Haynes
Once there were bears in California
the woods fat with their smell.
Once bears roamed among redwoods–
aged trees that wouldn’t be felled.
Once there were bears whose longing
ruled the rivers, bears who roared
clouds into motion, bears whose sleep
was vast as the wants it quelled.
Once there were bears whose hunger
was the song the salmon danced to,
their churning scales gleaming
cosmic in the river’s swell.
Once the bears made the moon grin,
made the ants howl, tore the sky to
ragged strips and drank its plasma–
rainbows poured from punctured shell.
Once there was gold in California,
gold and guns and mustangs galloping
mustangs galloping through the ages,
driving dust to stanch the maker’s well.
Once there were tears in California,
tears that flowed from glaciers and
melted fourteen hydroelectric dams
into a single harried, desolate yell:
there were bears, once, in California.
David Huebert lives, writes and teaches in Halifax.
Bears Once is from his latest book, Humanimus: poems, published by Palimpsest Press. I bought my copy at Bookmark in Halifax.
Pensinsula sinking, Huebert’s collection of short stories, is also excellent.
Bears Once is a poem about the grizzly bear, once prominent in large swaths of North America, now extinct in California and elsewhere. The poem could as well have been about Nova Scotia’s mainland moose.
With a special thanks to our generous donors who make publication of the Nova Scotia Advocate possible.
Subscribe to the Nova Scotia Advocate weekly digest and never miss an article again. It’s free!