Ranger Training 

The cardinal rule of grizzly country camping
is to concern yourself only with outrunning your partner, not the bear.
Now, I’ve grown up around coyotes
and black bears fumbling through my suburbs,
pushed into our roads from the city’s overgrowth,
so I come well prepared to these woods.
My sneakers stay laced at all times
and never has a partner made it out alive, until now.
When overwhelmed, I run.
My mind shuts down until I’m out.
Easily startled by twigs into saying goodbye,
we make amends before the scent trail
can catch up with my head and heart.

My mistake with this one was thinking
it was time to sit a while.
I kicked off my shoes and told them
for once it felt safe to embrace
my lack of control, compelled
to fight off their fears
instead of fleeing from my own.
We laid in the grass, opened up,
and watched the sun roll over.
Then as I slept, they unzipped the tent,
crept out and abandoned camp
for another trail.
I woke from the sound of a sniffing snout,
and it knew that I was alone.

I would accept it as karma, you know,
I’d acknowledge how we are one and the same,
but there’s no closure in their silence.
At least when I run from a bear I scream.

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Published by: Nic Jean

Nicole Jean Turner is an artist from the Greater Boston area with an affinity for vignettes, napping outdoors, and conversations that confront the human condition. She got her master's in writing at 21, and expects to pay off her student loans by age 87

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