The man poses in the trees as a lion with a crooked tail. He looks
on the two girls with animal regret, if only he could play, if they
might want him. The upturned willow was commissioned
by the river. All afternoon he watches. The girls leap from
the willow. They hang their suits in the branches. Girls, girls
the world tells him. Girls should not sleep in the woods.
Their dinner, their fire, he watches. Pretend bear. Pretend
gun. In the air, a coal perfume. They wake twice, in the trash,
raccoons. Inside the tent they might want him. Not the raccoons,
not the bear. Girls should not sleep. Never animals
that bother you. One girl tears out the other's hair
to wake her. Again, the raccoons. A deer then. The lake. No.
What teaches them not to sleep. The man crouched over them.
Without light what teaches them. Soured air. Car keys. He mentions
the gun, crouched over them. Bear sighting, there is a bear.
They might want him with no light. Black bears don’t bother you.
What teaches one to play along. Over there. Stand guard. Thank god
you’ll help us. A little actress in a fake play. What teaches her
what to say. What teaches her to quiet the other. To unlock
the car. Thank him. To drive away.
I struggled to find a way into the poem and began to build a narrative through compositional means. By making use of pattern and evolving repetition I attempted to convey a confluence of perspectives and the level of disorientation associated with the scene. Whether or not my intent was effectively communicated, the process of working within a field of prose with independent fragments was a new approach for me, and one I found especially freeing.