photo of a bear

Two Poems by Jeff Whitney

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Perpetual Country (Blood)

It’s ok to be out of rivers and weak.
Even today, wind troubling the lake’s thin chemise,
two green birds kissing on a soldier’s cap,
a Kansas calf’s warm blood misting the bullet

made miraculous by speed. We fail so perfectly
as if it were designed. Sugar and sex the closest we come
to kingdom come. Friends grow children now
and I have to watch what I say about heaven

and birds. Is it better to let the shuttered window be
silent, to speak for it, or spit twelve swigs of gasoline
and let the whole thing go? I have given my other cheek

so many times. My sisters and brothers are waiting
near water to see the next miracle. That’s them,
their antennas up, god smeared all over their faces.

A Bear Falling

A bear falling from a tree
with a dart in its neck
is not quite a metaphor
for a hurried life,
or no-good ends.
At any rate a bear is falling
from a tree and I don’t care
for metaphor.
This is the goddamn world.
Sure we have loss, but when
did we not? Sure the clouds
are at our throats, but
isn’t this a happy kind of choke?
A bear is falling from a tree,
violently asleep. Imagine it
mid-air, back-first, in a city
you’ve never seen
in a country without words.
Imagine not knowing this earth,
hurtling toward it,
not quite unable to fly.

Jeff Whitney is the author of The Tree With Lights in it, available from Thrush Press, while Radio Silence (Black Lawrence Press) and Smoke Tones (Phantom Books) were co-written with poet Philip Schaefer. His poems can be found in journals such as Adroit, Blackbird, Beloit Poetry Journal, Colorado Review, Narrative, Poetry Northwest, and Verse Daily. He lives in Portland, where he teaches English.

Lead image“Bear in Grouse mountain” (via Flickr user Yu-Chan Chen)