When the grizzly cubs were caught, collared, and taken away—
relocated they call it—
their mother ran back and forth on the road screaming.
Brutal sound. Torn from her lungs. Her heart,
twisted knot, hot blood rivering
to the twenty-six pounding bones of her feet.
Just weeks before
I watched a bear and her cubs run down a mountain
in the twilight.
So buoyant, they seemed to be tumbling
to the meadow,
to the yarrow root they dug, rocking
to wrest it from the hard ground, fattening for winter.
They were breathing what looked like gladness.
But that other mother . . .
Her massive head raised, desperate to catch their scent.
Each footfall a fracture in the earth’s crust.


Copyright © 2022 by Ellen Bass. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 17, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“Last year I had the good fortune to visit a working cattle ranch in Montana that is committed to coexisting with the native wildlife, including grizzly bears. Shortly afterward, I saw a video of Grizzly 399 when her cubs were taken away. Chögyam Trungpa Rimpoche said, ‘If you can hold all the pain of the world in your heart, but never forget the vastness of the great Eastern sun, then you can make a proper cup of tea.’”
Ellen Bass