Bestiary for the End Times

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.
%d bloggers like this: