Growing a Bear

by Hannah Gamble

Growing a bear – a midnight occupation,
the need for which you perhaps first realized
when you saw the wrong kind of shadow

under your chin – a convex when you expected
concave, so now it’s clear
you’re getting older. Your wife was in the shower

and you wanted to step inside
and soap her up like you did in college when she said

“I’ll shower with you, but I’m leaving
my underwear on,” and you enjoyed her
in every way you could enjoy a person with soap.

You didn’t join your wife in the shower.
She’s gotten funny about letting you see her
shave her legs or wash herself anywhere.

You think she read it somewhere –
that letting your husband see you pluck anything,
trim anything, apply medicine to anything,
will make him feel like he’s furniture.

It’s exactly on cold nights like these that the basement
is not as forbidding as it should be, despite the fact
that you have to put gloves on
in what is part of your own home.

Downstairs, a large bathtub, kept, for some reason,
after remodeling. It is there that your bear will be grown,
by you, though you have no idea how. Probably wishing

is most of it; fertilizer, chunks of raw stew meat,
handfuls of blackberries, two metal rakes, and a thick rug
make up the rest. Then water.

You get an e-mail from a friend late at night
saying he can’t sleep. You write back
“I hope you feel sleepy soon” and think how childish
the word “sleepy” is. And you’re a man,
older than most of the people you see on television.

You haven’t even considered how your wife will feel
when you have finished growing your bear. You could
write a letter to her tonight, explaining how your life
was just so lacking in bear:

“Janet, it’s nothing you’ve done –
clearly you have no possible way of supplying me with a bear
or any of the activities I might be able to enjoy
after acquiring the bear.”

It might just be best
to keep the two worlds separate.
Janet clearly prefers things to be comfortable
and unchallenging. Janet soaps herself up. Janet puts herself
to bed, and you just happen to be next to her.

You go on your weekly bike ride with Mark and tell him
that you’ve been growing a bear. An eighteen-wheeler
flies by and he doesn’t seem to hear you –
plus he’s focused on the hill.

You think about how not all friends know
what each other sounds like when struggling and
breathing heavy. Past the age of college athletics,
most friends don’t even know what each others’ bodies
look like, flushed, tired, showering, cold.