Sebastian Matthews


Bears have been following me around again.
I saw one the other day
across the road, snuffling about
in his Nature Center pen
up from the polluted river
and in sight of the public golf course.
I’ve been reading about how
they come back to us
as shamans, spirit men haunting the forest.
And just tonight I caught this snippet
of National Geographic on television:
a hunter describing how he shot
this young bear; he was crouching
somewhere in the field, face turned
from the camera as he told his story.
The man spoke forthrightly
of seeing it coming, of knowing
the bear hadn’t spotted him, of making
a decision: if the bear walked into his area,
he’d shoot; if he drifted off, he’d let him go
his way. He came into my view, he said,
and so raised the gun. Then the bear turned
to look at me and I shot him.
The hunter went on,
his speech slowing, faltering.
With a distinct sadness the hunter
described the bullet entering the bear,
exploding inside the animal. It wasn’t remorse
he was choking on: he had done
what he had set out to do.
No, I am sure it was recognition I saw
clouding his face. He went down quick, he said.
He didn’t know what hit him.



“Ancestor” was first published in SOLO.