JP Dancing Bear

I remember : seeing them on the sides of roads : parked in shade : turning the pages : paperbacks : news : head tilted to the window : driver’s light : each in a quiet peace : I’d think of their lists of chores : yellowing at home : under the ire of a wife : old men : who would never give up : their car keys : would never turn : that last page : of privileges : now with so many : businesses dead : I see : the parking lots : filling : not with the ghosts : of patrons : but these ancient desperations : these needs : for one more story : one more yarn : about a man : pitted against the environs : battling to make it : back home to a love : who waits : patiently : denies : all comers : faithful to his memory : in love : virtuously alone

          The Lascaux Bulls

we keep our fears : in a small cave : where sometimes huddled : in together : one of us dares : to commit : our feelings : to permanence : we see : ourselves much : smaller than the animals : that would die : or kill : great hooves : horns : against our spears : we use the blood : of the fallen : as part : of our memory : we knew : only the mouth : the eye : the heart : the bone : before we : brought our tongues : to paint : here we : share our observations : how antelope herd : bulls charge : the horse rears : this is what we know : of ourselves too : inside us : shadows grew : much longer : then we could see : our fear : we know it : shared : on this finite wall


measure twice : cut once : but it was more : than just that : you have to square away : make a plan : think of the possible : uses : abuses : what is load-bearing : what will be : strictly ornamental : consider the foundation : something lasting : how everything you : will need should start there : think of the future : the potential : add-ons : build-outs : I remember : someone once told me : the desert people : because they have : no forest : have no glulams : or a way : to support beams : he had said : you use : what’s available : how true : how fundamental : not to dream : of materials : or import them : from great distances : I saw a house once : eaten from within : because the builder did : not know : about subterranean termites : the weight : of the travertine : marble counters : just brought it all down : that much faster


Two moons, two moons reflected in the rippled glass—
two moons, different phases of the same, one looking to,
and one away. Two moons and I am in love with their common
light again. Two moons like formal tea partners, and I can
almost hear them talking, oh the gossipy stars can fill
the night's parlor with such a clamor, like background
radiation, like the harsh whisper of atoms churning
billions of light years from here… Oh why do we listen?

I am caught in the gravity of two moons, one dressing
in night, the other baring its alabaster skin—how I know
it is an illusion, how I know there is only one lonely satellite
passing over, passing by. But to think of the possibilities
of living on a different planet with twin bodies orbiting,
a place much less abandoned than this.


I am a pattern of currents, each a chord twisting an imprint
in the sand. What I do is movement, sometimes the swiftest
floodwater, other times a slow curling eddy—the kind fish,
thick and slick and full of shadows live entire lives within.
I am strands of rivers, streamers of evaporation, the heavy
etchings of monsoons—always this need to hum with energy,
always this desire to reflect light as diamonds, as stars,
to bounce and refract it, to mirror each ray as if it were mine.

Don’t attempt to read my record in the mud and sand—
what you touch there is only what I had once felt. In this
way I am so temporary and fortunate to leave an impression,
but I am also gone, moving away, following the call of gravity,
like a siren’s hymn, it sings to my molecules, it knows my surface
tension and I, I am my best when I feed and am fed by the earth.

J. P. Dancing Bear is editor for the American Poetry Journal and Dream Horse Press. He is the author of fourteen collections of poetry, most recently, Cephalopodic (Glass Lyre Press, 2015), and Love is a Burning Building (FutureCycle Press, 2014). His work has appeared or will shortly in American Literary Review, Crazyhorse, DIAGRAM and elsewhere.