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E. Thomas Jones

My Dream About a Bear

— after Lucille Clifton

like black water ripplinga bear lumbers

through my summer home& leans

against the handrailsniffing

the stuffed geese hungin flight

in my dreamI face

the bear & tiptoe backwards

trip overa crossbowI try

to pull its stringbut

the sinew won’tgivein

my dream the stringslits

my fingers & bleeding theyvein

the glass door’s

handlein my dream

the door openswind

drops pine & lake water into

my throatin my dream

I leave my home &

trap the bear inside.

Revisiting My Dream About a Bear

the bear is lucky I can’t hold
a crossbow — my aim
like my mother’s — we strike

every heart & target & I was ten
& threw a rock
at a boy for stealing my sandal

& on the way home
my mother told me of the time
her own brother

ducked from a stone she threw
that — as if magnetized
to skull — struck him — two boys

crying in my mind —
tongues in their hair & palms
slicked raspberry

the sandal back on my foot
I staggered
in playground mulch

I’m bleeding they wailed I’m bleeding
my mother & I both
know the guilt of hurting someone

we know
these flashes of wild rage
& we say

I don’t mean harm — but this
boy & her brother
& the bear in my dream

all glare at us —
our arms & hands now
shafts & arrowheads.

Mama Says if I was a Zombie She’d Shoot Me in the Head

In a dream a bear tells me her answer
to the trolley problem, swings her paw
like a felled tree & roars for clemency.
Motherhood: if a bear is starving, she eats

her cub. A better mother than most,
this bear wants to spare them both. She
is grieving — not for the lost child,
but the child there, who asks questions

too hard to answer: What would you do
if I tried to eat you? Who, if either,
should be saved? I once tried to run away
from home only to linger on the porch

& play my Gameboy. Mama watched me
through the window. When I came inside,
a brewed storm spilling, she bruised me
in her arms & cried.

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