This time of year big black refrigerators of the woods, bears, still slumber in the United States.

Bear specialists tell us that here in Florida, they don’t enter a true hibernation.

A few published poems of mine are about black bears. That is fitting as these wild, grub and berry eaters and I have met up three times unexpectedly. I’m not looking for any more crossing of paths, except in literature.

When I pick up a poetry collection that is new to me, as I have with Lucille Clifton’s evocative BLESSING THE BOATS, I am drawn to any poem story that employs themes in my world, such as the Ursus topic.

BLESSING’s poem, “imagining bear” is dedicated to Alonzo Moore,  Sr., by Lucille Clifton.

In part, it reads:

imagine him too tall and too wide

for the entrance to the parlor  

imagine his hide gruff; the hair on him

grizzled even to his own hand  

imagine his odor surrounding him

rank and bittersweet as bark  

I am struck by this on a rainy Wednesday morning. An idea I ponder is how fur-bearing animals don’t catch colds, develop bronchitis, from routine soakings in the wild.  (Manatees can develop pneumonia.)

A character I have summoned and have put on an island is someone who I think of in bear metaphors.

Clifton’s bear and my bears,  new character and in poems  (Milkweed Editions, the one & two with The Journal of Florida Literature) aren’t the Orlando bears most associated with my state, the theme world entertainers.

Although, tenderly handling the ragged bear hand puppet that survived my childhood, I found a muse to bring me bear poems for little children.

In sober poems, bears frighten. They are prowlers.

As Clifton writes:

imagine his growl filling the wind  

Here is a review that does justice to Lucille Clifton’s BLESSING THE BOATS.


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4 responses to “Ursus”

  1. I believe I met that bear-of-a-man on an island at our last writer’s group meeting.

    I always feel kind of sorry for bears. They are so large and we leave them so little space. One-on-one I know they could be fierce, but mostly they get turned in for attacking our garbage cans and threatening our sense of safety. Mostly they’d just like to be left alone to lumber along.


    • Wow – can you tell me more about island man, m aybe when we catch up.

      And yes, every study shows that they are really wanting those berries & etc. we teach them to like our trash. I did a chapter on bears in my Florida’s Famous Animals book & appreciated the insights of a state bear expert.


  2. I didn’t know this Lucille Clifton poem, Jan – thank you. Someone dear to me associates himself symbolically with bears, so I’ll have to pass this along. And hoping your future bear encounters are of the literary variety – or at least from a fair distance! ;0)


    • Thank you for visiting Bookseedstudio again Robyn. I appreciate your steadfast interest.

      Finding Blessing The Boats was serendipity at our public library. I’m often the beneficiary of librarian’s choices that they so alluringly prop up on top of a bookcase, to catch our attention. It worked.


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