Tuesday, June 7, 2016

"Polar Bears" by Mary Soon Lee, Frequent Contributor



Polar Bears
Mary Soon Lee

"We saw the polar bears,"
I answered, when asked
what I had done with my day.
     
And I could tell
that my questioner
was unimpressed,
he whose life rushes
from deadline to deadline.
     
But no words came to me, then,
to explain:
how we sat pressed up to the glass
in our winter coats,
our bottoms slowly growing
cold as the rocks
across the blue water,
and not a bear in sight
as I fished out
one picture book
after another
from my backpack,
reading to you,
and waiting, waiting
for the bears to come out;
and then the moment
they emerged onto the rocks,
unhurried,
your fingers round mine
as you watched for three minutes
before losing interest,
so we left
before they even dived into that deep blueness
the other side of the glass;
and all the things I might have said
if you were older --
about global warming,
habitat destruction,
the caging of creatures
who roam mile upon mile
over the ice,
wild,
all left unsaid,
but my heart shining
because of you,
how you make the small things
large.

Poet's Notes: First when my son was little and then when his sister was little, I would frequently take them to the Pittsburgh Zoo. This poem is about visiting soon after the zoo opened a new polar bear exhibit (pictured). My daughter Lucy was two years old; both of us were excited, and Lucy was patient while we waited for the bears to actually appear. This was one of many occasions on which Lucy turned what might have been merely a small happiness into a great joy.

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