“Burrowing” by Sarah Ens

The polar bear head at FortWhyte Alive
considers the dust that coats her plastic tongue—
she craves bite, dreams blood, hears a burrowing
owl, sprinter, long-legged in the late afternoon.
In chase, the bear’s frozen jaw confesses:

i would gather for you

crickets, ground beetles, young mourning doves.
The owl enclosure beams earthy sanctuary, damp wood
cleaved open.

i don’t sleep either

no hibernation unhaunted. A woman daily counts prairie
dog & bird bodies, watches for breath below ground.
Then, cheek hot on freshwater aquarium,
she asks murky muscle, old eyes, how to be less
human. The burrowing owl, a juvenile, tucks down
into dirt, hopes vaguely but deeply for diverted
tunnels, while bear huffs to the lady wishing fish,
their skitter, stone-flash:

i miss arctic

char, seal, inukshuk hailing shale, spray paint like moss

i miss

soil turning, a world even broke up &
melted, ghosts darting tall grass,
flocking for home.


This poem was originally published in The World Is Mostly Sky (Turnstone Press, 2020).

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