That winter, snow dusted the hemlock, each spiked cone.

Snow salted my hair—it was that long, that winter.

A black bear cub curled beside me, hers a dark honeyed sleep.

If this were a fable, one could sleep the whole winter


without interruption, that’s how long it felt as the bear cub

and I kept each other warm. She had no clamp, no shackle

or trap marks in her fur, of course I checked. Carefully,

I peeled fat gray ticks from her back, but I was gentle


then. Sometimes it was my turn to wade

waist-deep into the river, and that was fine. If we were

lucky, there were fish, though no fish would

consider this luck. Sometimes the bear cub seemed to stalk


a smell, sniffing, I assumed her mother, but it could

have been anything, that winter. You wonder what

there is to learn here, other than this isn’t a fable.

Other than, whenever I woke, the bear was a bear again.




Nathan McClain is the author of Scale (Four Way Books, 2017), a recipient of fellowships from The Frost Place, Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and a graduate of Warren Wilson’s MFA Program for Writers. His poems and prose have recently appeared or are forthcoming in New York Times Magazine, upstreet, The Rumpus, Poem-a-Day, and Verse Daily. He teaches at Hampshire College.




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