365 Poems: 18 – Polar Bear (Rough First Draft)

Polar Bear

My heart and head hurt,

like someone has tipped me back,

poured paprika behind my eyes,

cut open my chest on the left-hand side,

rubbed my heart with sharks teeth and salt.


I am enjoying the experience of seeing you,

my first ever polar bear, but I shouldn’t be,

because you shouldn’t be here.


To see your old, immaculate body, slumped

on a grimy concrete floor, of an undersized

ex-military base enclosure is immoral.


All of your attention is focused on crunching

a small, unidentifiable bone, and retrieving

small pieces that fall from your jaws.


There’s nothing else for you to do,

with those curved claws, made for travel

over ice and snow, to grip prey securely,

like you gripped that drunk man’s hand

a few years ago, when he taunted you

with biscuits and a vodka bottle.


I wonder what you do when it snows.

When the cold ices up the iron bars

and the skinned meat is frozen

before you get to it.

Do your natural instincts kick in?

Do you scour your water pit for seals?


I don’t know your history at all.

Were you born tiny, blind and toothless

into a snow den? Where did you breathe first?

Svalbard? Greenland? Canada?

What happened to your brother, sister, mother?

Did they stay in the place where bear comes before man?


When you pause what you are doing,

and your dark eyes pick out mine,

I know when the snow falls, you turn,

and walk back through the shadowy gap in the wall.


You ought to be moving forward, North,

mouth and neck stained with blood,

rich seal blubber warm in your belly,

the Aurora Borealis at your back.