Published on Academy of American Poets (

The Orange Bears

The Orange bears with soft friendly eyes
Who played with me when I was ten,
Christ, before I'd left home they'd had
Their paws smashed in the rolls, their backs
Seared by hot slag, their soft trusting
Bellies kicked in, their tongues ripped
Out, and I went down through the woods
To the smelly crick with Whitman
In the Haldeman-Julius edition,
And I just sat there worrying my thumbnail
Into the cover---What did he know about
Orange bears with their coats all stunk up with soft coal
And the National Guard coming over
From Wheeling to stand in front of the millgates
With drawn bayonets jeering at the strikers?

I remember you would put daisies
On the windowsill at night and in
The morning they'd be so covered with soot
You couldn't tell what they were anymore.

A hell of a fat chance my orange bears had!


From The Collected Poems of Kenneth Patchen, published by New Directions Publishing Corporation. Copyright © 1957 Kenneth Patchen. Used by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.


Kenneth Patchen

Born in 1911, Kenneth Patchen is the author of numerous collections of poetry and received an award for life-long contribution to American letters from the National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities

Date Published: 1957-01-01

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