Poetry: The Bees and the Bears by CL Bledsoe

Before bed, my daughter asks
about when we were bears,
serious face, big eyes. She knows
once she pulls the string, I’ll spin
all night. “That’s why you like salmon
so much,” I remind her. “We slapped
the waves into place as the river curtsied
past, which is how the Mississippi
was made. They won’t tell you that
at school, because they’re in it with
Big Erosion. We knew the secret song
that put the bees to sleep.” “But weren’t
we stealing their honey?” “We left
flowers like the tooth fairy leaves
silver dollars. They were glad to
have them. They wrote thank-you
notes. Your mother might still have
some, saved somewhere. Flowers
grew in our fur – a special kind
you can’t find at the farmers market.
They changed color and scent
depending on our moods, what we had
to do that day. Too much homework
and they would go gray and smell
like old cheese. Everybody would know
we needed someone to make
funny faces at us.” “I don’t think that’s
true.” I shrug. “When we’d scratch
our backs on trees, it straightened
them so they grew into the sky, which
is where the best sunberries come from.
They’d drop them down for us, sometimes.
When we sharpened our claws on their
bark, we were returning the favor.”
I look into the distance, thinking about
how sweet those berries were, the feel
of loam beneath my claws. “Why did
we ever leave?” she asks. “We got laid
off and had to come here for work,” I say.
“Your mom’s cousin knew somebody
hiring humans, so we had to trade in our
fur and claws for hair and donuts. That’s
why you should always unionize.”
That bit always puts her right to sleep.
I tuck her in, stand over her,
growling at the darkness to keep
it back a little longer.

Raised on a rice and catfish farm in eastern Arkansas, CL Bledsoe is the author of more than twenty books, including the poetry collections Riceland, Trashcans in LoveGrief Bacon, and his newest, Driving Around, Looking in Other People’s Windows, as well as his latest novels Goodbye, Mr. Lonely, and the forthcoming The Saviors. Bledsoe co-writes the humor blog How to Even, with Michael Gushue located here: https://medium.com/@howtoeven His own blog, Not Another TV Dad, is located here: https://medium.com/@clbledsoe He’s been published in hundreds of journals, newspapers, and websites that you’ve probably never heard of. Bledsoe lives in northern Virginia with his daughter.

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