Inside the Bear

by Janet Shaw

All night the blizzard trampled down our tent
like a great white bear making its bed,
then waiting for dawn when we tried to rise
from beneath its weight. Outside
light a whirlwind, snow a howl blown sideways,
the world swallowed by white we faced into,
wind eating our prints when we tried to walk.
Stranded, we lay down again under the snow,
breath vapor meeting vapor as we pressed together
with our dogs while our pulses slid to a whisper
and sleep piled in drifts over us.

In my dream I kill the she-bear.
I take off my gloves and cutting with the thin knife
slit her from gut to throat,
peel back fur, then flesh, crack open
the bone-stave shelter stinking of blood and bowel
and crawl inside—the way grief
creeps into the hot carcass of the heart
and waits out its long season.

Janet Shaw's poems have been published in many journals, such as The American Poetry Review, Antaeus, New Orleans Review, and others. A collection of her poems, Dowry, was published by The University of Missouri Press. Her short stories have been published in The Atlantic Monthly, Sewanee Review, and others. A collection of her short stories, Some of the Things I Did Not Do, was published by The University of Illinois Press. For twenty-five years she wrote historically accurate novels for young readers of American Girl.