“Social Experiment in Which I Am the [Bear]” by William Evans

William Evans


At the dinner party
I didn’t want to attend
because these people
are from work, meaning
[overtime] without pay,
and one woman, newish
person in old money, ring
on her hand that could
lift a family out of the mud, says [boy]
I didn’t know you were
this funny, I didn’t know
you were a troubadour, a silk rousting
my ears and of course I am
paraphrasing because she can’t
really talk like me, a [writer] and all
except when she flexes and says
and I heard you write
poetry too, my [worship] you aren’t
at all are you,
you’re as ursine as they come
and if you think
she didn’t really say ursine,
then you’ve never
seen a hunter try to aim
straight with one hand
while they offered
the forest’s gifts with the other,
and if you think I didn’t know
she thought I was once
a great beast neutered down
to [civility] then
you haven’t attended enough
dinner parties, and I wish
I had relevant facts about [bears],
how we are of the
few mammals that can see
in color, how we can be
vegetarians or carnivorous,
how even a shaved polar
bear is still black, but this time
I just laugh low
and hollow like a stolen growl,
I am already
on my hind legs after all, already
talking with my paws wide
as a preservation, my voice
shakes the leaves even
when I don’t plan on it, our lineage
traces back generations, but once
you’ve assimilated, who’s to tell
when you were [captured]?
Who’s to argue where the bear ends
and the circus begins?
There’s a world between
learning the song of one’s claws
against a new throat
and performing tricks
for anyone who bought
a ticket, but I did wash the mud
from my fingernails before
I arrived—I’m still
laughing, by the way, still
hoarding my teeth deeper
within me, I am a [library]
full of the times I yanked
something apart and the times
I went hungry
and the times I let my hair grow
and grow and grow
until I was a snarl of a thing
and I ate everything
the party could offer me,
like I could never
become full.

from Rattle #67, Spring 2020


William Evans: “Much of my writing of late has been addressed as the other. I spent a lot of time working in corporate environments and managing the ignorant and incendiary things that people would say to me. The job was ‘eventful’ enough in that aspect, but the mask would completely drop in social gatherings where I was almost othered out of existence. This poem is specific to that, but generally to the sentiment of what it is like being expected to perform, constantly and often on demand. In that way, it seems that I was always auditioning for a thing I didn’t necessarily want to be.” (web)

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