"Way of the Bear"
Have the ghosts lost touch or have we lost the art to hear them?
The way of the bear stays in the bear, though we wear its head
and coat and chant and pray to the forces for guidance. Maybe,
if we sit with thought until it breaks quietly over the blaze
of attention, if we sit with hunger until the names for things recede
into their whispered collaboration, the eyes will glaze and clear
and shift from one sight of truth into another: we'll look down
and see the fur dark and shaggy along our arms, the claws sharp
and lethal at the tips of our fingers, the green asleep in our bones
till spring, the light awake in our bones till sleep, the dead
as murmurers of mystery in the language of the living;
and we'll stand so still in the water's rush that fish and stones
and force of hunger converge as figments of the river's song,
and the way that stays most days within the bear will awaken
in the one part human, standing in the one part earth;
and we'll sway like a wave cresting in the autumn breeze,
crashing in upon itself, a wave that enters the mouth of a fish
caught between two swift paws, lifted into the morning light,
switching rivers from water to flesh, yes—we'll stand in that
lost art of living where the bear tears open the body of Chinook
and we of the imagination catch ourselves breathing its breath.
Ricky Ray was born in Florida and educated at Columbia University. His recent work can be found in Fugue, Lodestone, Sixfold and Chorus: A Literary Mixtape. His awards include the Ron McFarland Poetry Prize and Katexic's Cormac McCarthy prize. He lives in Manhattan with his wife, three cats and a dog; the bed is frequently overcrowded.