Tag Archives: Spring

After Hibernation

SpringI found out recently that bears do not, as I had previously believed, hibernate. Now my whole world is thrown into chaos.

I’ve been thinking about bears a lot lately. I took a short trip to Montana last weekend to visit my grandparents, and though I didn’t see any bears, the few I have seen crossing the road, if my memory is correct, have been in Montana. I passed the University of Montana, whose mascot is the Grizzly, and was saddened to discover that they will likely be cutting many of their programs, including English. My grandfather and my father both have pointed out to me it’s a good thing I didn’t get accepted into UM because of their financial issues. I could have been a Grizzly, but in the long run it’s better that I’m not.

Biologically speaking, I am not a bear, but I share a few characteristics: I have a special affinity for honey and berries, I possess a quantity of brownish unruly fuzz, and I require a lot of alone time. Also, I like to stand in front of a river and wait for fish to jump into my open, gaping jaw, but who doesn’t? Most importantly, I have always appreciated bears because they hibernate, or so I thought. I, too, have always thought of myself as hibernating, but if I was wrong about bears, I might be wrong about myself.

Hibernation is absolute isolation. Other species hibernate because they literally sleep the entire winter, clicking off their other functions to preserve heat and energy. Bears, on the other hand, wake up periodically during the winter months to leave their dens. During winter, they stay in their dens with stored energy and warmth, but move about to replenish their needs, but only sometimes, when it’s necessary. Bears don’t hibernate; they’re just introverted.

It’s unlikely that bears clack away on a typewriter during winter, crescent moon glasses on their large wet bear noses as they squint their bear eyes at their bear memoir (beamoir) while taking a sip of mead and then glancing out of their den to contemplate the complexities and horrors of being alive. But if they did, I would sympathize.

It was cold and rainy and almost snowing when I drove six hours to Montana through sloping mountain passes, driving past and in some cases over small secluded towns in the forests. I rarely leave the Palouse, or Moscow, or my apartment. I prefer long periods of seclusion storing energy, writing, digesting berries and honey and whatnot. But apparently, this is not hibernation. Even in summer, I burrow away to write and read. It’s more like conservation, if anything.

Now that the weather in Moscow has finally become consistently warmer, I cannot justify staying inside my den all day. In some respects, I don’t want to. This has been the longest winter I have experienced in quite a while. It has been brutally windy, unpredictably cold, overwhelmingly sunless. It has become easy to stay inside my apartment in isolation, because going anywhere requires preparation, even on good days. For me, I’m realizing, this is true in other circumstances. But it’s comforting to know that what I do is not hibernation. I don’t vanish, I’m just resourceful.

The road to Montana was clear and almost completely empty in the early morning. Low storm clouds obscured some of the mountaintops and dark green forests along the road. It was cold, but not violently so, and the clouds slipped away when I reached my grandparents’ house in the Bitterroot Valley. It was almost warm during the weekend excursion. As a break, it was even almost enough.


Broken Strings

Today is World Poetry Day, and by tradition on this blog (after having done it once), I’ll celebrate by posting an original poem. But today isn’t just about writing poetry; it’s about reading it. Currently, I’m enjoying Brandon Som’s The Tribute Horse. Let me know in the comments what poetry you’re reading, and I hope you enjoy my own contribution. If not, I have others.


Violins are such distraught instruments,
attention-hungry, stage-front and fraught with stage fright
as they demand burning strings with match-striking speed,
snapping bow hairs. When violinists listen
they can hear the glue dry on the tuning pegs,
can hear the instrument creak under the pressure
of a perfect performance, and still audiences almost never see
the violin at home. The smallest things do the worst damage;
a change in weather alone can pop a string. In silence
they release the pressure; tuning pegs unwind
letting out the strings, freeing them from the chipped bridge.
Violinists anthropomorphized these tools, naming them with anatomy,
the neck and body, not for the romance of it
but to transplant their body’s torment onto an instrument,
to make it suffer with them.
How frail the off-stage violin can be,
letting small things gnaw at it from the inside out,
allowing snowflake-sized details to warp its wood, melt its glue.
But these things are easy to fix. I can tune a violin
but what of the violinist? What of the audience? The streets?
Can we fine tune the weather to make the planet ripe again?
It doesn’t take a petition to tune an instrument
or social media campaigns to rosin a bow.
I can fix a broken string, but there my skills end
in the wake of so many other broken things,
cities, hearts, correspondences, futures. I can mend an instrument
held together and torn apart again by chance,
but for all the brokenness I can only marvel
at musicians with stage presence and their perfect instruments
that never need tweaking, never gather yellow layers of rosin dust,
never slide out of tune with the changing seasons
the way mine always seems to these days.

Copyright Keene Short, 2016.


One Final Poem Again

By tradition, I try to write a poem every day during April, and by tradition, I always fail but nevertheless end up with a stack of pretty good poems. Last year, though, my final poem for the month accompanied a stinging cloud of rejections; this April is different. Tonight, a ten-minute play I wrote will receive a staged reading at Firecreek Coffee in downtown Flagstaff;  two days later, a short story I wrote will be published in Garbanzo Literary Journal. At the beginning of this month, I attempted a poetry slam, though my poetry simply cannot be slammed. So to conclude National Poetry Month, by tradition, here is one final poem.

Tray of Flowers

In Which the Love Poem Deconstructs Itself

This is only a love poem
no different from the ones that grow every Spring
along the spindly fingers of trees pointing in all directions.

This is only a love poem
that wishes to drop the word “only” from its rank.

This is a love poem longing to separate itself
from all the other love poems,
green with confident cliches.
This is an autumn love poem, blushing red
at the realization that it has slipped
from the branch in deliverance.

This is a love poem
that wants to be more than everything
love poems are expected to be,
wanting to be a knotty hurricane of flowers
pulled from the oven when its recipient
expected only a mediocre cake.

This is a love poem that wants to evolve
and move the genre entirely
from its obsession with nature imagery
and comparison of love to concrete things,
usually in long, organized lists,
moving swiftly from leaves in Spring
to leaves in Autumn to flowers in the oven;
it wants to subvert itself, come out of its cocoon,
but keeps falling into the trap of its own patterns.

This love poem wants to be a nightlight
that keeps its recipient warm at night,
or cold if its recipient so desires,
but this love poem is going places,
it’s creating a makeshift bed of compassion,
but is still dissatisfied with its direction.

This love poem wants to be a nightlight
but one that only glows laughter,
because this love poem is on the cusp of an epiphany,
realizing that no matter how deeply a love poem plunges
into a spiraling pantheon of epiphanies,
no matter how many times it reinvents itself,
this love poem will only be able to convey
its own simplicity, its deep green reduction
of twelve quasars of emotion to a single four-letter word;
its stanzas, like bricks atop one another,
will eventually fall into a pile,
making love poems a fleeting matchstick,
but the love inside this love poem,
the poem slowly begins to realize,

will st ill b e there

af ter

lan               gua                  ge

in     evi         tab       l      y

f           a               i                  l                       s


Resurrection of the Berries

It’s Spring, and World Poetry Day, so I wrote a poem to celebrate both.

Rivers Flow

They bloom every year,
bulbous little puffs sprouting
cell by cell, drop by drop

from dirt, light, water,
these berries on the vine, soft,
inflated with juice, dark,

and ready to fall.
They grew from the same water
the Buddha’s mother drank,

the same soil Plato
decayed into, swept away
by worms and roots and seeds

that birds carried off
and dropped. Did Socrates know
that I would pluck him clean

off the vine? Maybe
his particles swept downstream,
joined the clay formations

used in giving birth
to Michelangelo’s David.
I let this black juice drip

down my cheek as I
stuff molecules of the past
between my teeth, compress

my dead ancestors
together with my tongue.
I’m sure that we will meet

not too long from now
when we are resurrected
from our bodies, when we

slip hesitantly
into a nirvana
of disconnectedness,

when we fly away
element by element,
cell by cell, drop by drop

into wilderness.
Then I’m sure we’ll meet again
as we’ve met in the past,

me as a flea’s leg,
you as the fur on a wolf,
or me as a flower

placed on the forehead
of a dead saint cremated
with sticks from your branches,

or, if dreams come true,
you as a wild berry bush,
me as a ladybug,

both of us together
in a bubble of green time
carried down a cool stream.


Photograph of the Lochsa River in northern Idaho, by the good folks at Keene Short Photography. Poem by Keene Short, 2015.