New Welsh Review

Bear on the Battlefield

Poem by Katy Giebenhain

PUBLISHED ON: 26/01/21


TAGS: American Civil War, Washington, alienation, death, memorial, nature, surreal, wildlife, work

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Sweet spot of the day
the last tour bus propels itself
through the fresh dusk.
Split-rail fences rim the road
in waggy stitches.
In local news, a bear’s been spotted.

A young Black Bear in
Gettysburg National Military Park.
This part of spring they’re separating
from their mothers
for the new breeding season.
It’s logic, nature, etcetera.

On the asphalt, New Balance rubber
lift-land-lifts. I finally get a rhythm.
Cows on my left,
passing meadows, the road,
the first monuments. Here we go.
It’s not logic at all.

My life could stop
with the back-hand of a teenage bear.
Killed on an after-work run.
How absurd.
And yet, everything about him
is ordinary, instinctual.

This is the first non-absurd
part of my day – outside
not on my ass
in front of a computer, not
wearing heels and eating apples
and Cheetos over the keyboard.

I run the ground where thousands
of men and horses fell,
through smoke and cannon crack
so loud it echoed to Washington.
Absurd. Each death.
Full-scale war among neighbours.

The road swivels
into the trees. I lift-land-lift.
If it came down to it,
to what machines and the minds
of men can do, wouldn’t I prefer
the bear? Wouldn’t you?



Katy Giebenhain’s collection Sharps Cabaret (Mercer University Press) won the Adrienne Bond Award for Poetry. Her MA is from University of Baltimore. Her MPhil is from University of South Wales (Glamorgan). Work has recently appeared in The Examined Life Journal, BMJ Medical Humanities Blog and Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine. She lives in Pennsylvania.