Sarah Messer

The Animal Groom

Striped woods, stirred berries and spatula collapsing
into forehead light — this was my contemplation interrupted
by the bear. The bear, bouldering into my cabin as I stirred
dried berries at the stove. Standing on my hind legs stirring when
the bear entered, a wall of fur, standing on his hind legs. I was married
to this bear. And so my husband entered with his bear-skin
cloak thrown over his eyes as his forehead touched mine, and
the forehead of the bear-skin touched mine. And I saw
him for the first time. His forehead shined a flashlight into mine.
Luminous, even though I was shy and looking at the spatula.
The bear in his bearskin made the cabin collapse. And I was married
in his hair. Then an arm, a spatula reaching through me to the cabin
window where the striped woods collapsed and left me without
a bear-skin of my own. I wore a striped mattress. The woods
were filled with them. The bear said: you call that a parka?
The bear said: lets strip this mattress down to particles and contemplate
that. Let’s contemplate, said the bear, the idea of the mattress
in its smallest form. And beyond that, the bear said, let’s imagine
that the mattress contemplators and the mattress itself
are empty. Lets imagine our imagining is empty. Are you
gonna eat that? said the bear, because if you’re not, I’d love
to have it. Then what would there be? No mattress, no bear, no idea
of mattress, no idea of bear. No bear interrupting with his stomach
growling and reaching for the spatula. There’d only be
Luminosity, said my husband, the flashlight in my head.

Sarah Messer
Poem, copyright © 2005 by Sarah Messer
Appearing on From the Fishouse with permission
Audio file, copyright © 2005, From the Fishouse