Alaska Shorts: No Bears, by Stacey Mednick

Stacey Mednick
I walk down the vacant path
shouting “no bears” in my head.
I should be wearing a bell
to ward them off.
But I’m quiet, so quiet.
Rain gear doesn’t rustle,
boots not squelching in the mud.
The bear would jump out and say
“Gotcha” before the claws came down.
Tracks through my scalp.
“No bears” I don’t say aloud, again.
Bears are wary, I know, and avoid human noises.
Sing a song loudly.
What song?  Three blind mice?  There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza?  B-I-N-G-O?
But it’s too late, the silence too thick to split.
I see my destination off ahead.
A slender cabin on stilts, red shingles peeling toward the sky,
washed out wood with purple-black mussels up the legs.
A baby cries, but it’s in my own belly.
“Shh, little bear.  It’s not time for you yet.”
Will it be claws that emerge from the shadow of that lean-to
and open my belly button?
Out a pink infant falls.
The bear and I would lock eyes,
a moment of understanding.
I walk on top of the fog
on this late September day
in Tenakee Springs, Alaska.
“No bears” she whispers to me from below.
So then, you’re a girl, little bear.
Little girl, it’s almost time, but not yet.

Stacey Mednick has been a frequent visitor to Alaska since she was a small child, visiting extended family in Juneau, Tenakee Springs and Kenai.  She says she lives in another beautiful spot — by the Chesapeake Bay — but some days it just doesn’t compare to the Tenakee Inlet.

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