J. P. Dancing Bear  is the author of ten collections of poetry, including the soon to be published Family of Marsupial Centaurs (Iris Press, 2010) and Inner Cities of Gulls (2010, Salmon Poetry). His poems have been published in Mississippi Review, Third Coast, Natural Bridge, Shenandoah, New Orleans Review, Verse Daily and many other publications. He is editor for the American Poetry Journal and Dream Horse Press. Bear also hosts the weekly hour-long poetry show, "Out of Our Minds" on public station, KKUP in Cupertino, CA.

Saint Helena
for Mark Doty
you hear the voice of Federico Garcia Lorca weeping: in every guitar: which is always of two minds: one searching for the strumming hands of a musician: the other desiring to sing for everyone: and does not care if it is discovered by the clumsy feet of a Galapagos turtle: which reminds you of Napoleon Bonaparte: in exile: where he took to standing on the back of a turtle: (one sailors had brought to solve the entire loneness of the Atlantic Ocean): because the turtle was so adept at ravaging the emperor’s vegetable garden: Napoleon had finally reached a compromise with something:  he rode standing on the shelled back: in windswept mornings: hand in vest: reading the great philosophers: to his reptilian companion: at night: after the turtle would eclipse in heavy underbrush: then trundle over to forage the garden: the emperor would weep: having lost everything: again: even the slow moving turtle moon: with its wide O-mouth: mimicking the singing face: of a weeping guitar 

A Brief Informal History
For us, there was never a Harry Houdini
who escaped from the boxes or from behind
the Bureau of Land Management fences.
There was Jim Thorpe, who ran in circles
better than anyone else. He ran like a caged wolf.
That was something we all knew.
Great fists rose from the west, drifted over
the plains and pounded us with thunder
as though we had always been corn
waiting to be reduced to meal in the unfurling fields.
Out of the east the real fists came.
From within the snowstorm of lies, we heard
tales of our own resistance.  But we heard
too, the names of our fathers embossed in chrome
on the fenders of cars, on the labels of alcohol,
in the lonely glow of neon above cafes.  We heard
the death song coming from the sky, loud
and piercing the way a bird of iron might sound.
And all our ghosts.  Those boys who went to war
and fought like there might be a freedom hidden
somewhere in blood.  They came back to our open-
armed ghostfathers, their faces yellowed
and parched by the long poverty of their lives.
Our boys went back to being unneeded as a stone—
waiting in the desert, petroglyph for all that is lost.


Be Fog
             (Poem Starting with a Line by Sarah Hannah)


Be fog someday, and you will have nothing
but clouded thought and muffled whale talk,
everything seemingly removed but close.
The old philosophers were right: everything
you need is within but they never mentioned
the terrible ordeal of location, the lack of landmarks
or that you could spend your life listening
to something very near, yet never touch it.
Forget insight—you are lucky for the lighthouse
and the fog horn. If the sounds of grinding
steel and rock never arrive then it is a good life
with gulls and pelicans somewhere above,
the lap of the waves feeding at your feet.
When you have nothing, you have it all—without
the gritty grip, the glitter show, the bending
of your life to hold all those things you should
never have called your own.

J P Dancing Bear Poet at Moonday Poetry December 2010

© 2010 JP Dancing Bear

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