I grew up in Vermillion, South Dakota, and was educated at Stanford University (B.A., English) and the University of Minnesota (M.A., English). I started writing poetry when I was a child and never stopped. For the past thirty years, I’ve lived in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where I teach and consult with arts organizations on their plans and programs. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate in receiving some awards for my poetry, including a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. My fifth book of poetry, Between Us, will be released in 2016. Visit my website at www.MargaretHasse.com
Constellations of the Two Bears
The night sky is milky with billions
of celestial objects in a glittering galaxy
farther than the mind can go.
Three planets glow in the sun’s reflection.
Nearer earth, a gibbous moon grows.
Fixed patterns turn and return
on a great wheel placing stars
where we can find them and make stories.
Tonight the constellation
of the big bear is low on the horizon.
Winter is coming again;
she’s looking for a place to rest.
The myth tells of a woman transformed
into a bear who rose on her hind legs
to embrace her human son.
Out hunting and not knowing who she was,
he aimed his bow and arrow at her heart.
To trick death, Zeus flung them
into the sky, pinned their shapes to stars—
the constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor—
immortal in space, watching each other
from a great distance.
Imagine never again touching the one you love.
Once, on a trail in Yellowstone
I startled a bear.
As if she were a human in disguise,
she stood up high
one heart-pounding moment
as if to get a better look
at my little son beside me
to see if he belonged to her.
But he is mine. Mine!
I shouted as she ran away.
Some believe the great bear
revisits Earth at the autumnal equinox to eat,
her muzzle blued by berries.
Before she returns to her place in the sky,
she’s wounded by her son.
Her blood stains the maple,
puts fire in the leaves of sumac.
As they work to occupy lives of their own,
sons can hurt their mothers casually.
My adult son sometimes forgets
that a little affection—a weekend visit, a hug—
carries the heart a long way.
Routine space and time will bring us
into alignment, soon we will meet . . .
My television screen shows
a huge image of a handsome young man
with dashes of military insignia
on the shoulders of his dress uniform,
his face resolute for death.
His mother stands bravely
beneath his image unable to speak
of her love and her grief.
On the dark journey to the stars
that even my beautiful son must take,
I wish to go first.
-reprinted from Between Us (Nodin Press, 2016)
©2016 Margaret Hasse
©2016 Margaret Hasse
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