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Ellen Bass- Ⅱ

     Bears In China 



                     10,000 bears are imprisoned to extract bile which is used to produce 

                     shampoos, aphrodisiacs and “miracle” remedies.





The bear is forced into the wooden crate,

crushed in, like a rug packed for transport.

But the eyes, staring out the small openings,

are alive, suffering. If it weren’t

a real bear, if it weren’t pinned flat,

the cage so tight it cannot scratch,

ten years lying in its urine and feces,

if it didn’t have a small hole pierced

in its belly, with the dark hair shaved

so it looks like a pale iris,

like a terrified eye, the pupil

shrunk almost to nothing, if a tube

were not stuck through that cut

and if bile were not sucked out

like the insides of an egg, and if

the bear did not roar, not even

in the beginning, and did not bite

himself, and did not eat the food

by his five-toed paw or extend his tongue

to the drops of water on the bar,

and if the massive body had not turned

a deaf ear on the longing of the soul

to die, if what was in that box

was only the fur of a bear, scraped

of its fat, its flesh hot stew

in the stomachs of children, the hide

worked supple, the heavy claws intact,

then perhaps we would not be bound

to climb into that skin and become the bear,

to seek to know what it knows.

But this bear is alive, its damp snout

pushing through one roped corner,

and we must walk through our lives

draped in that tremendous coat,

carrying its dense sorrow.