It was summer and the rain
was falling on the old
green leaves
when she came the first time,
bear in hand,
to ask for a cup of milk or
sugar or something.

And I said, What’s this
a pet bear? And
she looked at me
quizzically, as if to say,
Of course it is
are you blind?

I reached down
to touch its soft brown
breathing fur
and it growled, showing me its teeth
and said, Careful

for I have cracked bone
and torn the flesh
from leaping tabbies.
Where I come from, you
wouldn’t last five minutes.

And where is that? I asked.
And the bear said, Next door.