Kin Drinking Kin

Ursa Major and Minor

Gypsies believe bear and man are brothers. The evidence? They have the same body beneath their hides, each likes to drink beer, enjoy music and under its sway, dance.

Gypsy Folklore

Mr. Virtue and The Three Bears

by R. P. Blackmur

We hammer out tunes to make bears dance when we long to move the stars.   Flaubert

This morning at his gas stand in Lucerne on Route 1, Mr. Virtue was found devoured by his bear.   Mr. Virtue left no known relatives.  (Remembered some fifteen years later from the Bangor Daily News.)

I knew a bear once ate a man named Virtue
All but a mire of clothes, an unlicked bear
Caught, a May cub, to dance for soda pop;
Who when half-grown lumbered before us slowly,
Gurgling and belching in the gas-stand yard,
On a sorry chain, and made rough music there.

A chattel property of Mr. Virtue,
Untaxable and nameless, this black bear,
For some a joke to sell flat soda pop,
For some terror in chains, wove himself slowly
Through foundered postures, till hunger smalled his yard,
And he broke free by eating Virtue there. 

If no kin came to claim the clothes of Virtue,
Yet hundreds claimed themselves in that black bear
And drank the upset crate of soda pop,
Kin drinking kin: drinking the stink that slowly,
Like a bear’s pavanne, swept the gravel yard
And made of vertigo a music there. 

So fell the single hymn to Mr. Virtue:
In rough music that burst from that young bear
When sudden soda in his loins went pop,
All longing and no hope, and he danced slowly,
Rearing and dropping in his chain-swept yard,
Till Mr. Virtue dumped spoiled blueberries there.

–And yet, there move two musics wooing Virtue:
Those of the Great and of the Lesser Bear,
Of the star falling and of new soda pop; 
And these two bears dance best when long time slowly,
Overheard, the Dipper spills by inch and yard
The northern lights on us from darkness there.

So praises blew in this bear feast on Virtue.
The greater sprang within the lesser bear
In music wild in the spilled light, to pop,
And by created hunger move, most slowly,
The blacker stars, fast set in their hard yard,
To loose their everlasting shivers there. 

Let us in virtue so beseech the bear,
With soda pop, that he may dance slowly
Move in our yard constellations darkly there. 

It is not often I swerve in this blog from short to longer form poems.   But today is an exception.  Maybe its because I am feeling like a bear in need of eating virtue, or maybe I am a man, out to gut my brothers? Or maybe I a man in need of a drink, or maybe I am a bear in need of blood?   Or maybe because its April fool’s day?  Whatever the cause, I was inspired by the balance in these two poems, justice denied, justice deserved.   Are we the constellations in the heavens, in our slow rotating dance, or are we hungry bears here on earth?    Either way brothers (and sisters), let’s find a better way forward than eating each other…. 

The Bear

By Galway Kinnell
In late winter
I sometimes glimpse bits of steam   
coming up from
some fault in the old snow
and bend close and see it is lung-colored   
and put down my nose
and know
the chilly, enduring odor of bear.
I take a wolf’s rib and whittle
it sharp at both ends
and coil it up
and freeze it in blubber and place it out   
on the fairway of the bears.
And when it has vanished
I move out on the bear tracks,
roaming in circles
until I come to the first, tentative, dark   
splash on the earth.
And I set out
running, following the splashes
of blood wandering over the world.
At the cut, gashed resting places
I stop and rest,
at the crawl-marks
where he lay out on his belly
to overpass some stretch of bauchy ice
I lie out
dragging myself forward with bear-knives in my fists.
On the third day I begin to starve,
at nightfall I bend down as I knew I would   
at a turd sopped in blood,
and hesitate, and pick it up,
and thrust it in my mouth, and gnash it down,   
and rise
and go on running.
On the seventh day,
living by now on bear blood alone,
I can see his upturned carcass far out ahead, a scraggled,   
steamy hulk,
the heavy fur riffling in the wind.
I come up to him
and stare at the narrow-spaced, petty eyes,   
the dismayed
face laid back on the shoulder, the nostrils
flared, catching
perhaps the first taint of me as he
I hack
a ravine in his thigh, and eat and drink,   
and tear him down his whole length
and open him and climb in
and close him up after me, against the wind,
and sleep.
And dream
of lumbering flatfooted
over the tundra,
stabbed twice from within,
splattering a trail behind me,
splattering it out no matter which way I lurch,
no matter which parabola of bear-transcendence,   
which dance of solitude I attempt,
which gravity-clutched leap,
which trudge, which groan.
Until one day I totter and fall—
fall on this
stomach that has tried so hard to keep up,   
to digest the blood as it leaked in,
to break up
and digest the bone itself: and now the breeze   
blows over me, blows off
the hideous belches of ill-digested bear blood   
and rotted stomach
and the ordinary, wretched odor of bear,
blows across
my sore, lolled tongue a song
or screech, until I think I must rise up   
and dance. And I lie still.
I awaken I think. Marshlights
reappear, geese
come trailing again up the flyway.
In her ravine under old snow the dam-bear
lies, licking
lumps of smeared fur
and drizzly eyes into shapes
with her tongue. And one
hairy-soled trudge stuck out before me,
the next groaned out,
the next,
the next,
the rest of my days I spend
wandering: wondering
what, anyway,
was that sticky infusion, that rank flavor of blood, that poetry, by which I lived?

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A Sonnet Obsession

I am a life-long Minnesotan who resides in Minneapolis. I hope you enjoy my curated selection of sonnets, short poems and nerdy ruminations. I am pleased to offer Fourteenlines as an ad and cookie free poetry resource, to allow the poetry to be presented on its own without distractions. Fourteenlines is a testament to the power of the written word, for anyone wanting a little more poetry in their life.

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