Bears cougars rattlesnakes man alive
people keep saying aren’t you
afraid living way out there no
close neighbors real friends
where do you shop on the spur
just go for a cuppa coffee look
what if you suffer an attack of
anything can happen my god
at your age it’s crazy —

the other day I said whoa
stepping back to gaze in wonder
at how this sow pushed over
my compost box oh I understood
of course spring and all the surge
still I’d built that box myself
scraps of ancient planks squared off
clean and straight at the corners
nailed tight with spikes a big old
boy I was sorry to see lying there
behind the barn all messed apart
a long scar clawed across the black
sheet of plastic covering the top
or not covering anything now
except a patch of gray snow
bristling with pine and fir needles
how many moldy cheeses and pea
pods skins seeds and pots of coffee
grounds I’d given that box to mix
and cook and sweeten over the years!

she was hungry all right bear-
hungry after a good long sleep
and quite likely eating for three
those two babies back in the den
blind whining and wanting
their milk yes sir friends
sour is sweet things break
the yearning returns home
and abroad hungry is hungry.

Gary Gildner is a winner of the National Magazine Award in fiction. Cleaning a Rainbow is his latest collection of poems.