Sitting Shiva

If you find the bones of a bear, sit down and stay with them.
The dead desire our company. Touch each one—scapula,
tibia, ulna—even the tiniest bones of the hind and forefeet,
the curve of every claw. Just out of sight, a thrush will sing.
Bird song is a way to speak in secret. Find comfort
in the arbutus that whitens each March on the old logging road.
Wait until dark. A full moon will rise from the bear’s skull,
showing what she thought of us. Hold the moon-skull in your lap,

stroke the cranial ridges. You may see your dead father
scaling the talus to the blueberry field where this bear ate,
mouth sated and purpled by the sweetest fruit. Your mother
will be in the room on the second floor of the house, packing
and then unpacking a box of your father’s clothes. It’s hard
to give up this life. But we must. Others are waiting behind us.

Todd Davis is the author of seven full-length collections of poetry–Coffin Honey, Native Species, Winterkill, In the Kingdom of the Ditch, The Least of These, Some Heaven, and Ripe—as well as of a limited edition chapbook, Household of Water, Moon, and Snow. His poetry has appeared in Ted Kooser’s syndicated newspaper column American Life in Poetry and has been anthologized in such books as The Autumn House Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry and Bedford/St. Martin’s textbook, Approaching Literature. His poems have won the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize, the Chautauqua Editor’s Prize, the Midwest Book Award, the ForeWord INDIES Book of the Year Bronze and Silver Awards, and the Bloomsburg University Book Prize. More than 400 of his poems have appeared in such noted journals and magazines as American Poetry Review, Iowa Review, Ecotone, North American Review, Indiana Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Missouri Review, Poetry Northwest, Sycamore Review, Gettysburg Review, Orion, West Branch, River Styx, and Poetry Daily. He teaches creative writing, American literature, and environmental studies at Pennsylvania State University’s Altoona College.