When the Bear Played the Banjo

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Written by Gritfish

Camping alone, I built me a campfire
And sat and poked in the dark at the coals.
Each poke sent sparks skyward, a gyre
Of glowing spark upon spark of spark-souls.
Light from the campfire flickered and bickered
And loomed on the trees at the edge of my camp. 
In my mind ancient guilt-forms twisted and dickered
And vied as the cause of a violent head-cramp.
Oh, mushrooms, oh, thunder, ow!—my aching head's splitting!
Mirages and flare-forms, flame-spirits and a phantom:
At the edge of the firelight, I see a large something sitting
But what I'm not sure; my head pounds like a tom-tom.
It's a caricatured bear!

(With a lavender ruff—viva Jerry Garcia now dead)—
And it shows whatsoever no care
About the state of my poor aching head!

 

And the bear began to play the banjo:
Plinky-planky, strum, strum, strum, 
Plinkity-plankity, strum, hum, hum,
Plinky-planky, come, come, come,
"Oh, come to this church in the wildwood,
Oh, come to this place in the dell,
For no bear is so dear to my childhood
As my mama black bear in the dell!"—
And straight away they came and stood,
A melange of ursine personnel.
The banjo-bear then growled and changed
Into a familiar species:
North American black bears once ranged
Widely among trees like these. 
 

 

And on they came:
            Lead by ur-bear, the oldest of them all,
           And European cave-bear, once co-existent
           With my human forebears,
           But now spirits only.
           Contemporary bears:

 

                                      The blond kermode spirit bear,

                                    Giant Kodiak and Alaska browns,

                                    White polar bears,

                                    Grizzlies,

                                    American black bears,

                                    Asiatic Himalayan bears,

                                    Panda bears (not really bears)

                                    Malaysian sun bears with black backs and yellow chests,

                                    Sloth bears,

                                    Spectacled bears from South America,
                                    And bears yet undiscovered and unnamed

All came forward in a line.
 

 

Circled the bears then around me,
Shuffling, dancing, swaying, hopping,
Fading into space-time profoundly,
Just outside the fire light stopping.
Now in single file they all came forward,
Dancing in a conga line,
Supplicants with faces turned upward,
Dependent on some whim of mine.
Before me each bear was forced to stand;
A white glove enshrouded my right hand.
Biodiversity saved by a move to the left
But a wave to the right: off to their death!
With this realization came great remorse 
And I resolved firmly henceforth to endorse 
A bear-and-nature-friendly future course.  
 

 

The dirge that had droned from the banjo
Changed into a swinging, upbeat tango.
All the bears cheered for their enhanced chance,
Rejoicing that I had rejoined them in their circle dance,

For they knew that 

 

 

"Everything the power of the world does is done in a circle.  The sky is round, and I have heard that the world is round like a ball, and so are all the stars.  The wind, in its greatest power, whirls.  Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours.  The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle.  The moon does the same, and both are round.  Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were.  The life of man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves."

                                                                                                Black Elk (Oglala Sioux)
And 

 

"What goes around comes around."

 

The lead was taken by Ur-bear, 
We spiraled upward through the air,
Hand in paw, a melded line,
Once and unborn, deep in time,
We soared like comets through the stars,


Singing "Yes!" for Earth's future years.

                                                            Gritfish    (c) 2004

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