Atlas Bear (Morocco) When you came walking into these mountains, you came walking with the ice, step by heavy step covering eons of time, and you stayed and you sought refuge from the great flood. The entire world had melted beneath you. You swam with the stones and the seeds to the highest valleys. When the cedars and pines arrived you stayed slapping fish with your open fists in the lapping woodlands and the snow-fed wadis. When you felled trees for grubs and beetles the still-young mountains trembled. When you climbed for pine-tips and juniper berries, the wind stopped. You knew the peace of long ages of time and over long ages you became the enduring Atlas. You held up the sky. And then the Romans came. They came with fire, bronze and lust. They baited you and made sport with you and they hollowed you out and they made you a slave. You, you fought; for centuries you fought: lions and tigers gladiators and slaves, Romans and Cypriots, later Visigoths and Gauls, Christians and Moors. You were beaten, starved and hunted. You hung on. You were driven by steel and bound in chains. Still you felled your slavers, still you made the mountains tremble. You were taken on ships, your fierce beauty carved on coins that mocked your worth and diminished you. In the end it was the guns blasted you beyond the far horizon. The ice had long ago retreated, the cedars riven to dust. And after the guns the zoo collectors came. They cornered you and caged you, bear by bear. They shipped you in cages to Europe where you had nothing, and no one, and nowhere. In London and Rome and Paris you paced and you slept and you quickly and quietly slipped away year by year and bear by bear, until in the end only the mountains were left to bear your name.