When Things Cool Down

It’s been a while since the Bears have had a good bowl
of porridge. Breakfast is usually cold cereal now
with berries, eaten hastily. The only sounds are

the scrape of chairs against the wooden floor,
the clack of spoons against milk-filled porcelain,
the slurp and crunch of mouths too full of food to talk.

They don’t stray far from home much
anymore; their morning strolls
are shorter and less frequent.

Baby Bear has taken to cowering
in the bushes that line the yard.
Papa Bear plods down to the nearest oak

and rubs his back against it, while Mama Bear
paces in front of the cottage doorway,
pausing frequently to sniff the air and listen.

Papa Bear stopped telling his stories
in the sitting room before bedtime. Now,
Mama and Baby just sit and watch: his eyes,

wide and glazed, glower into the shapes
that flicker from the fireplace, his claws
digging into the chair’s armrests.

He startles easily when Mama reaches a soft paw out
to stroke his fur, recoils and bares his teeth
before shaking off the fear.

Baby Bear’s chair doesn’t rock
as smoothly as before
despite Mama’s attempts to mend it;

the rocker clacks when he leans back now,
slow and rhythmic, like the light footsteps
of human shoes.

Baby Bear hasn’t slept through the night
in weeks, keeps seeing shapes in the shadows
that carve themselves into the moonlight:

a pleated dress and those tight blonde curls,
coiled and ready to spring. Tonight he crawls in
beside Papa, since his bed is big enough, while

Mama Bear stares at the ceiling and wonders
how long it will take for their lives to return to normal.
She caught that familiar scent on the wind this morning.

The girl with the golden locks had been near again.
Papa hadn’t noticed, and neither had Baby.
Mama didn’t say anything about it to either of them.

Now, lying in bed, Mama makes up her mind.
She and her family are not going to live in fear
any longer.

Tomorrow, she will get up early
and make a big, fresh pot of porridge.
She will make it piping hot and serve up

three heaping portions. And, while her husband and child
sleep soundly upstairs and the porridge cools
in the morning air, she is going to go for a walk.

She is going to follow the scent
of the golden-haired girl and sink her teeth
into her family’s fear once and for all.

And when she comes back, her family will be awake
and the porridge will be cool. They will eat their breakfast
calmly and have a nice conversation.

And, goddamn it, everything
is going to be
just right.


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