Half-Suicide Beginning with the Death of a Brown Bear
that they caught and sent away from town five times that winter; that kept coming back; that they caught and sent away again to the snow and fir of the Canadian border, and there she was again, and here I was thinking only the birds had compasses in their noses. But she made it every time, until that last try at crossing the town line: she got hit by a semi-truck. The legend goes she had two new cubs with her, and when it happened, they just stopped, after all those miles, and laid down, right there in the snow. Where were you when you heard? I was at my usual bus stop, my breath making ghosts. Snowplows made salty furrows of the sidewalks. There was a woman there: my mother’s age, filling up on sedatives, beating the early night to sleep. Imagine a full-grown mama charging out into the road like that, she said. What could you do? I wondered if she meant if I was the trucker or the bear. I asked: When did it happen? She said: Last night. Yes, last night. All the reminders to the mind that it’s death time. Last night I pulled a friend, drunk and half naked, out of dirty snow, after a party where nobody spoke our names. He was falling over himself and he’d lost his coat. He murmured there was no one who’d care if he made it through, even while I pounded his chest with my palm.
James King is a poet from New Hampshire transplanted to the Carolinas. His work has appeared in Exposition Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, Chautauqua, and Humana Obscura, among others. He lives in Wilmington, North Carolina, where he is an MFA candidate and coordinator for the UNCW Young Writers Workshop.