Polar Bear

By George Bilgere

Featured art: United States National Museum Photographic Laboratory

A father died heroically in some Alaskan park
while trying to save his kids from a polar bear.

Long ago, when his mother gave birth
one summer afternoon in Bakersfield, California,
could anyone have prophesied,
as in an old myth, that the baby crying
at her breast would one day be killed
and partially eaten by a polar bear?

Has anyone from Bakersfield, California been killed
and partially eaten by a polar bear? Yet her son
was. He looked up from making camp,
pitching the tent or lighting his Coleman stove,
and there it was, white and immense. His fate.

And he died heroically and was partially eaten.

Of course, the bear had to be killed. The rangers shot it,
which makes sense. You can’t have polar bears
running around in the wilderness!
The wilderness is a place for dads and kids
and Coleman stoves. Polar bears just . . .
they just kind of ruin the whole thing.

As for the bear, it didn’t die heroically.
It just got shot and fell over
and was sent to a lab for testing.

George Bilgere’s seventh collection of poems, Blood Pages, was published in 2018 by the University of Pittsburgh Press. His poems have appeared in Poetry, The Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, Sewanee Review, Best American Poetry, and elsewhere. Bilgere teaches at John Carroll University in Cleveland, where he lives with his wife and two sons.

Originally published in NOR 28

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