William Matthews, “The Bear at the Dump” from Time and Money: New Poems.
Copyright © 1995 by William Matthews.
Reprinted with the permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.
THE BEAR AT THE DUMP
Amidst the too much that we buy and throw
away and the far too much we wrap it in,
the bear found a few items of special
interest—a honeydew rind, a used tampon,
the bone from a leg of lamb. He’d rock back
lightly onto his rear paws and slash
open a plastic bag, and then his nose—
jammed almost with a surfeit of rank
and likely information, for he would pause—
and then his whole dowsing snout would
insinuate itself a little way
inside. By now he’d have hunched his weight
forward slightly, and then he’d snatch it back,
trailed by some tidbit in his teeth. He’d look
around. What a good boy am he.
The guardian of the dump was used
to this and not amused. “He’ll drag that shit
every which damn way,” he grumbled
who’d dozed and scraped a pit to keep that shit
where the town paid to contain it.
The others of us looked and looked. “City
folks like you don’t get to see this often,”
one year-round resident accused me.
Some winter I’ll bring him down to learn
to love a rat working a length of subway
track. “Nope,” I replied. Just then the bear
decamped for the woods with a marl of grease
and slather in his mouth and on his snout,
picking up speed, not cute (nor had he been
cute before, slavering with greed, his weight
all sunk to his seated rump and his nose stuck
up to sift the rich and fetid air, shaped
like a huge, furry pear), but richly
fed on the slow-simmering dump, and gone
into the bug-thick woods and anecdote.
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The anthology consists of ten poems that will be published weekly, compiled by Vinita Agarwal.