Robin Becker

The Black Bear Inside Me

All summer I elude them—
who think they want to see my

three cubs someone
said she spotted

on the gravel road that severs
thick woods

near a row of mailboxes,
by the stream;

who take the path down
and up the mowing

with baskets on their arms,

when they hear me
huff or blow.

They know
I will outrun, outswim,

outclimb, bluff-charge,
and in winter

drop my heart rate
from 40 to 8 beats a minute

in my den of
wind-thrown trees.

They know they will take
me in the September

kill, harvesting
my kind with dogs

and guns, and they know
we haven’t taken one of them

since 1784 in this state
where 5,000 black bear

clear carcasses
of deer and moose

and sow
fruit trees and shrubs.

They know they need us
who are so like them

our numbers tell
the story, yes, the land

that supports us
supports them; without us,

adapted to scarcity and woodland
loss, they’re going down.

Liberal Arts Research Professor of English and Women’s Studies at Penn State, Robin Becker has published seven collections of poems, five in the University of Pittsburgh Press Poetry series. Her most recent, Tiger Heron, appeared in 2014. Becker serves as Contributing and Poetry Editor for The Women’s Review of Books for which she writes a column on contemporary poetry called “Field Notes.”