Tuesday, June 15, 2010
From a dream
He walks with me like a faithful dog
though he’s twice my size
and my ancestors feared and revered him so much
they never spoke his name out loud,
calling him Honey-mouth, or Sticky-paw
or the Matchless One. Upright, he seems man
more than animal, though on cold nights
men in the wild would envy his fine warm pelt.
We are going to the animal doctor
not the corner vet but the real thing
because the Bear is ready to give himself again.
He passes without pain, without blood.
The animal doctor explains we must use all of him,
every organ, wasting nothing, sharing with those in need.
We unwrap the Great One as a medicine bundle.
Everything inside his skin is clean and dry,
sorted for use. The gall bladder is prized above all.
It will go to one who has earned it.
When we have used all of him, Bear is reborn,
the same Honey-mouth, in a new body.
The animal doctor says we must remember this always:
When you take from the Bear with respect, wasting nothing
Bear always comes back, in a new pelt.
Now I walk with him in his new body
to help someone who has dreamed him,
padding softly down hospital halls.
The Master of Medicine gives himself over and over.
This is the most natural thing in the world.
There is no end to this, unless our love runs dry
and we forget what he is.
The bear who seems ready to for lunch was photographed on the grounds of Johnson Hall, the last home of Sir William Johnson in upstate New York. Image courtesy of Wanda Burch.