Poem: The Bear (1 & 2)

For EarthSpirit’s Yule gathering this year, I played the part of a bear going to sleep in hibernation, and getting his bed ready for a long winter’s nap.  For Imbolc, I played the part of the bear temporarily roused from sleep, in order to crown the stag king.  The EarthSpirit community holds the Stag King’s Masque at Imbolc annually, and there a group of men perform an elaborate … dance? battle? to choose the Stag King for the coming year. This year, the storyline of the rite involved waking the bear so he could crown the newly-chosen king. These were my lines:

I. To Sleep (Yule)

I ate a couple of rabbits last week,
then some sticks, some grasses and leaves today.
My cave is ready with the bedding I like:
Pretty soon I’ll sleep the whole winter away.
Down in the darkness and down in the cold,
covered with leaves and nested in the earth.
If you find me asleep, don’t be too bold:
let me keep sleeping, until my rebirth,
for we’re known to be grump when we wake,
quite hungry, too, after a three-month nap.
When spring arrives, there will be much at stake
at second thaw, when icicles drip.
I’ll rise and squint at the returning Sun,
and roar. Meantime, I’ll sleep ’til winter’s done.

II. To Wake (Imbolc)

A dream of spring awakened me from sleep,
the scent of tulip bulbs spreading out roots.
The cold of winter has made me dream deep —
but I have heard the jackdaws in their moots,
and felt the maple sap starting to rise.
You behold only ice and slush and snow:
but we bears hear and smell the secret fire
in both the acorn and the raven’s cries.
Our fur tingles, as the Sun start to show
his true colors and warmth — and desire
for food grumbles in my hungering guts.
Come, Spring, and soon — though storms are yet in store.
But hark! — the drumming of deer hooves in their rut?
Come, see the stags choose their year-king once more.

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One comment

  1. Nearly twenty years ago, when I decided I wanted to be an actor, the very first part I ever landed was in a Commedia Dell’arte play called “The King Stag”. I actually hadn’t thought about it in years, but your poem happened to bring a lot of memories back. Now a part of me wonders if something else was calling me, way back when… I see now that a lot of the theater world is bound up in magic, even as most of its practitioners don’t have any concept of what that word really means. If I ever return to treading the boards, it’s going to be a whole different experience this time around.

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