Tuesday, June 28, 2016

POETRY FRIDAY: "Trespasser at Qwik-Mart"


I don't think I'd want a bear's life, but I do empathize with them. We'll be seeing more and more large predators in places we don't expect, and I hope that doesn't result in their numbers dwindling to a time when we never see them at all.

Trespasser at Qwik-Mart

Black bear climbed the fence behind the store
And lumbered toward the garbage bin.
Mother of two,
She’d had to let her hunger win
Against the cautious hollow at her core.

Night clerk, out for a smoke, had tossed a box
Of sausage pizza—a tiny sliver,
But it would do
Till morning when they reached the river,
So she tried to thunder softly as a fox.

Tranq dart struck her cleanly in the leg.
It took three more to bring her down.
The shooter knew
Bleak need had led her close to town,
For a black bear out of luck can hardly beg.


© 2016 Steven Withrow, all rights reserved


You can hear me read the poem aloud by clicking here.


20 comments:

Doraine Bennett said...

Very nice. I like the form you've used and the lumbering look it gives to the poor bear's plight.

Tabatha said...

Like Dori, I'm interested in your form.
I'm with you on the empathy for the black bear's hungry plight. My parents live near quite a few black bears -- a mama and her baby were hit by a car this spring :-(

Laura Shovan said...

I feel for this poor bear. All she wanted was a sliver of pepperoni pizza. My brother lives in the suburbs in Orlando -- they have a few neighborhood bears.

Sally Murphy said...

Beautiful, haunting poem. I love the unusual rhyme pattern, which really works well.

Heidi Mordhorst said...

Hi, Steven--nice to see you here at PF, and congratulations on your new (British?) book! This poem, along with its very effective form, builds a pointed contrast between our quik-mart dumpster lifestyle and the more lumbering fundamental instincts of the beasts we share our space with. Have you read *Pax* yet?

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater said...

Heartbreaking.

jan godown annino said...

Appreciations for your poem about an animal species that needs us to keep our trash from their kind.

Steven Withrow said...

Thank you, all, for reading and for your excellent comments.

On the formal side, the ABCBA rhyme scheme was a good challenge, but it was the metrical pattern that proved to be the most compelling for me in shaping the poem.

Across each stanza:

pentameter (5 beats)
tetrameter (4 beats)
dimeter (2 beats)
tetrameter (4 beats)
pentameter (5 beats)

On the subject matter side, I try to aim for empathy and open exploration rather than justice and closed judgment in my narrative poems about humans and other animals. Sara Pennypacker does a great job of this in her book Pax, as does Katherine Applegate in The One and Only Ivan. (Thanks, Heidi, for mentioning this.)

Steven Withrow


Bridget Magee said...

Also being the mama of 2, I know the lengths a mother will go to for her cubs/children. Society vs. wildlife is a tough problem for both sides. Thanks for sharing, Steven. =)

Alice Nine said...

I read it, and liked it; I listen to you read it, and I loved it. That made me reread out loud. And then I had questions... and found their answers in your commentary in the comments thread. Thanks for sharing.

Carol Varsalona said...

Steven,
I was impressed with the tone of the poem as you moved through the stanzas. There is a depth of emotion released in this poem of which I found particularly interesting. This poem can be one for students to explore point of view. Students would benefit from hearing you read aloud the poem since your articulation and intonation were right on.

KatApel - katswhiskers.wordpress.com said...

A poem that leaves me with so many questions... There is empathy from the tranq-shooter. But of course I'm wondering what happens to the bear... and her cubs? And that's life... right? We don't always get to see the big picture.

Books4Learning said...

Wonderful poem. Very relevant today. In the town next to us, a baby bear was found in a tree in the middle of everything. It took several days to get him down. I hear people who have spotted them in my area, but I have never seen one myself.

Ruth said...

Poor bear. :-( Thanks for the poem.

Donna Smith said...

Bears are drawn to the easy pickin's of human garbage, unfortunately. And unfortunately, human garbage is in more and more places for them to access. And even more unfortunately, we can't easily or safely co-exist under these conditions. Hopefully the bear of the poem is able to be placed back in her rightful domain.
I loved the format of the verses! Looks like it was fun to compose.

Brenda Harsham said...

Poor bear and poor cub. I'm glad you left us to imagine our own ending. I'm going to imagine a happy one.

Robyn Hood Black said...

Thanks for sharing, Steven - I like how you answered the structural challenge you set for yourself. (& love Heidi's response especially.) So timely - Laura mentioned Orlando, where I grew up. I don't remember hearing about many encounters back in the day, but lots of concrete has gobbled up lots of forest since then, and now there are cautionary signs along rural roads in Central Florida. Your poem shows the dangers of habituation without preaching.

Mary Lee said...

Yes, this poem belongs alongside PAX, THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN and Peter Brown's THE WILD ROBOT. Very effective use of form to match the content.

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