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By Susan Mitchell

Tonight the bear

comes to the orchard and, balancing

on her hind legs, dances under the apple trees,

hanging onto their boughs,

dragging their branches down to earth.

Look again. It is not the bear

but some afterimage of her

like the car I once saw in the driveway

after the last guest had gone.

Snow pulls the apple boughs to the ground.

Whatever moves in the orchard—

heavy, lumbering—is clear as wind.


The bear is long gone.

Drunk on apples,

she banged over the trash cans that fall night,

then skidded downstream. By now

she must be logged in for the winter.

Unless she is choosy.

I imagine her as very choosy,

sniffing at the huge logs, pawing them, trying

each one on for size,

but always coming out again.


Until tonight.

Tonight sap freezes under her skin.

Her breath leaves white apples in the air.

As she walks she dozes,

listening to the sound of axes chopping wood.

Somewhere she can never catch up to

trees are falling. Chips pile up like snow

When she does find it finally,

the log draws her in as easily as a forest,

and for a while she continues to see,

just ahead of her, the moon

trapped like a salmon in the ice.


Susan Mitchell, “The Bear” from The Water Inside the Water. Copyright © 1983 by Susan Mitchell. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press.

Source: The Water Inside The Water (Wesleyan University Press, 1983)

  • Nature

Poet Bio

Susan Mitchell
Susan Mitchell lives in Boca Raton and teaches at Florida Atlantic University, where she holds the Mary Blossom Lee chair in creative writing. Mitchell’s poems include outpourings of detail, yet they are rarely organized along neat lines of obvious intention.

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