The Fall

“I thought I’d give him something else
in the middle of his meal to think about.”

The year no autumn fell she walked
snowblind by the Black Hills of Dakota
into the bear that rose and cuffed her.
The blow scalped her, and raked her face,
taking away an eye, leaving her
afterwards manlessly alive,
hardly able to speak.

The bear embracing fell on her
in snow that cushioned them both, and began
to eat. Dying, she played dead.
Not minding, he kept munching.
Any witness would have seen
the most fearsome of winter beasts lunching.
Opening one eye she looked at him.
Puzzled he paused and returned the look.
Then raising her only useful hand
she gave his nose a tweak.

Twice puzzled, upright he beat a retreat
hind backwards, his intelligence challenged, changed,
his view of her as prey surprised.
His mind, enormously engaged
by its alteration exercised,
made him so suspicious that he stood
watching her, swaying, and growled
when calmly she aimed at his grizzly snout
the sign of a finger up yours
buster. He roared and lumbered off, fast,
mighty, but amazed by a not uncommon
tuck in he could not take.

When, restored, she told her story,
her head encased in plate, one cheek
half grafted with surgeon’s plastic, a black
patch for a Spanish eye guzzled,
and for an arm and hand prothesis,
her brown disfigured beauty brought
listening men to a pitch of lust,
the flesh of this maimed woman who thought
to die the year no autumn fell
was so desirable. One
by one they fell on her, and nuzzled,
till she chose to give them something else
in the middle of their meal to think about.
Watching, they rose, stood swaying, like bears
around her marvellous body, twice puzzled,
finally beating a retreat, suspicious,
because she tweaked their noses.