The Bears

Poetry / Brett Haymaker

:: The Bears ::

when I pedal home at four in the morning
these two guys were yelling 
although I think they were trying to sing.

They were yelling about ‘the bears’ 
with nobody but them on the street
everyone sleeping because they work 40+ hours a week 
or just waking up because two idiots are yelling 
GO BEARS outside their window and when I pedal past them
they yell, pointing at me with one of their fingers, heyhey! go
bearsgobearsgobears, and instead of hearing, yay! 
go bears! it is in my nature to hear:  Go, bear.  Go away.

And the finger pointing from the tip of their outstretched arms
does not point at me, but rather a place not here, a place
I ought to consider, so I responded by saying, Hey, why don’t you
shut up, and they responded by twisting one of their fingers 
up as if it were a candle plunged into a celebration cake
and I would have joined their merriment
always wanted to

but the merriment never suited me 
like it suits some
so instead I pedaled on
occasionally looking through the moving branches 
and with an open mouth 
I swallowed five thousand pointed stars 
proving I could 
be alone 
just me 
honey on my lips.


From the writer

:: Account ::

At the time I wrote this poem, I was working a 4 a.m. – 12 p.m. shift at a grocery store, which required me to leave my house around 3 a.m.—just as the last remnants of drunk sports fans in the city stumble back to their homes, drunk-texting old lovers, peeing in alleys, and accosting any other person on the street with enthusiastic insights.

I don’t own a car and enjoy riding my bike through the mostly empty, sleeping city—free to blow through stop signs and daydream a bit along the way. So when I came across a pack of guys screaming some bullshit song about a football team at an hour so many hard-working people were using for sleep—I couldn’t keep quiet. I had to lash out at them because, in that moment, they became proxies for everything in the dominant culture that I detested—detested because, despite my repulsion, I still seek “their” approval. As if a 9 – 5 job with a perfect house and marriage is the life everyone wants and needs, and if you don’t have that you are not a true citizen of planet America. I know it’s bullshit, but that hasn’t stopped the messages from being internalized and regurgitated and used to look at myself with disdain. The poem is both a recognition of the sorrow that accompanies that and a rebellion against it.

I should also say that I had recently re-read an old copy of Winnie-the-Pooh—an excellent book—as well as Gerald Stern’s book of poems In Beauty Bright, both of which are in conversation here.


Brett Haymaker is the recipient of an MFA in Poetry from Drew University as well as a poetry fellowship from Charles University in Prague where he studied with Slovak-American poet and translator James Ragan. In 2012, Brett won The Philadelphia Inquirer’s National Poetry Month competition. His poems have been published in Rattapallax and Willows Wept Review. He currently lives in Chicago, Illinois.