We didn’t have any bears and so drew straws
to dress up in the bear-suit and stand, vinyl-fanged
jaws agape in the hotel lobby. In August
of the drought-year, there was yellow grass, the daily
ritual of asking it to do violence to our feet, we lay
holepunched looking up at the electrical wires
crisscrossing the yard. From room to room, it
smelled of apples and bacon, or of comic books
and old dolls, and sometimes cinnamon potpourri
after the maids went through. And now it is real
summer again, a hot pink watermelon gulf
of unconditioned outside crawling with ants long
and fat as finger-joints, nymphs aloft in air viscous
with unspent rain. The creek-beds are tired.
The bear-suit is heavy. When Tom wore it, he ran
around shrieking at the tourist-children, a most
un-bear-like sound but effective nonetheless. Sasha tried
to hibernate, but that was less ferocious and the hotel
staff dragged her sleeping across the polished floor.
Now it’s my turn, and all I can feel is the sticky weight
of it, the bear-smells of Tom and Sasha, of the children
we frightened. It’s dark inside, and warm. I can’t stand
here long without becoming a metaphor for something.
But I’m just a girl in a bear suit. When the others sneak off
then I am a secret agent or I drive the van too fast
and forget to check the back of my skirt before leaving.
We never locked the door behind us, there was nothing
there worth stealing except the bear suit, but no one
can steal it, not with a whole entire person inside.
Hilary Vaughn Dobel is a poet and translator living, at any given time, in either Cambridge, MA or New York City. Her poems have appeared in Lana Turner and are forthcoming in The Seattle Review and Ploughshares. Her translation of Juan José Saer’s novel, The Clouds, is (pending rights) appearing in early 2014 with Open Letter Books.