This week’s poem takes us outside and into blueberry season. Sandy Stott’s “Following the Bear” is both a beautiful paean to the title creature and a subtle meditation on the act of gleaning – that is, gathering the remainders of a crop after someone else has harvested it. As he picks berries in the wake of another mammal’s picking, the poem’s speaker reflects on filmmaker Agnès Varda’s documentary “The Gleaners and I” and its many forms of gleaning. Stott leaves us with the refreshing humility of a human content to let the first and best harvest go to another animal than himself.

Stott writes nonfiction for a variety of publications, focusing especially on New Hampshire’s White Mountains, and he writes a column on search and rescue for Appalachia Journal. His book “Critical Hours – Search and Rescue in the White Mountains” is in its third printing. He lives in Brunswick.

 

Following the Bear

By Sandy Stott

 

Sometimes I like to be second,

the gleaner in a patch

after the bear’s combed his clusters

through the white strainer

of his teeth. Then

it’s one tiny blue globe

at a time berry by berry

my pail fills slowly

or hardly at all.

 

In Varda’s Les Glaneurs

it’s rare to see a full set

of teeth; often,

the mouths that offer

explanation are dark caves

and the words rush out

like evening’s bats.

 

On this hilltop far

from the flat French fields

and their humps of cast-offs,

far from the turnings

of the plow’s old angled hand,

this evening it’s just me

and the bear-in-waiting,

that one over in the fringe

of poplars whose round pale leaves

speckle his dark body,

that one who’s eaten the whole blue day,

that one who appears to be following me.

 

Megan Grumbling is a poet and writer who lives in Portland. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. “Following the Bear” copyright © 2018 by Sandy Stott, reprinted from Senior Hiker Magazine. It appears by permission of the author.

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