January Thaw
By g.l. bass (the ghostbear still lives)
January 2002/revised January 2003
For Bryon


January thaw runs
Icicle rivulets down
The foreheads of
Glistening snow banks
Winding in webs of pencil streams
Each mapping out
Their own identity,
Down steep snowdrift
Streaming across
Wide-open fields -
Where the forest falls
Once again into
The gathering fingers
Of the farmer’s trenched
Deep rocky creek,
Spun and
Scrawled a dividing line
Between woods end
And Marsh beginnings.

The bear rustles
To the sound of small
Trickles seeped deep
Into his lair.
The calls of crows,
Gone mad
From the sweeping shadows
Of Red-Tailed Hawks
Sailing against
A stark
Winter sun,
Awaken him from
Heavy winter sleep.

The bear awakens.
Lost in dreams of
He yawns and uncramps
His body, stiff from
Hibernation’s tight grip.
He has no time for foolish
Games of winter deceit.
He stirs only to test
The time,
To make sure the
World hasn’t unexpectedly rearranged
And to assure everyone,
From forest to farm,
The bear’s boundaries
Remain the same.

The Bear crawls out upon
January thaw’s beckoning
Warm refrain.
The Bear leans into
Southwestern winds.
The forest echoes
The sounds of thaw,
Rumbling streams
Down over boulder strewn
Valley seams,
Intermittent warm waves,
Snowmelt rain
Dropped a hundred feet
From Hemlock tops,
Dripping memories
Of blizzards remains raining
Down upon the forest
Once again.

The bear lifts his nose
To the wind and gathers in
All the stories and storm memories.
He smells icy air steeped
In deep pine perfume
Washed across the tops of trees,
Wind rushed down into
The forest’s heart.
January thaw calls all
To arise, awaken
Out from beneath winters
The world’s refreshed,
All the world awaits
Times to come.
Springs promise is upon
The lips of
Southwestern winds.

The bear wanders down drifts,
Slides out and over bluffs edge,
Bulldozes through breakthrough snow,
And stumbles his way to the river.
Lost below thick ice the river flow
Sings a deep song of cold,
Of frozen times past,
Of snows yet to unfold.
The bear drinks shallow melt
From the rivers frozen surface.
He bends low and senses the
Currents below.
He turns his head against the wind.
Again and again, he leans down
Into the rivers icy mirror
And he sees himself.

He sees himself as he really is,
His image against backdrop
Dark blue skies.
He sees himself,
Surrounded by glacier capped mountains
Rising into stark white clouds-
Like crowns around their peaks,
The bear sees his world
Of forest, hemlock, and snow.
The bear knows the low full moon,
So dim and pale far off in Eastern skies,
Belies the story of blizzards past,
And foretells of storms yet to come.
He knows the thaw's but a promise
Upon winds soon to turn cold.
There is no mystery for him,
Just time of deceit before the storm.

He’s learned from years past,
These times are promises not ready
To last.
He’s learned from days,
Now memories grown old,
There’s no truth to January thaws.
There’s naught but heavy snows to come,
And there’s yet a long sleep before
Winter’s done.

The bear climbs back up the stream's steep side.
He crawls back over frozen crust of snow,
Burrows his way back along the trail,
Rolls over and over and over amongst
Downed hemlock and pine remains
Scattered all about the door to his den.
He leaves markings all around to remind
Those who believe in the promises of the thaw,
Not only do crows tell tall tales,
But this mountain belongs to him.
A reminder to all
About times of January thaw.
He turns for a last, long look at the
Rising moon,
Lifts his nose to the wind,
And disappears back into his
Deep den once again.

The bear settles into dreams
Of times past, and times yet to come.
As far as he is concerned,
Even in his deep sleep,
This mountain covered in heavy snow
Belongs to him.
As far as he is concerned,
The world is not a mystery,
But it is a way of life
You have to learn to live in.
You have to understand
Truth from promise
Promise from lie,
Because while the thaw does
Promise, it also lies.
It’s all part of knowing
Time of promise from
Time of ice and snow.
It’s all part of knowing
The ways of the bear
Are not necessarily the ways of men,
And there will come a time again
When the river
Breaks apart and starts
It’s time of flood and flow

All and all,
The bear knows,
Being part of the forest,
Being part of the world,
Means the promise really is
His to keep.
The bear knows
January thaw is but
A reminder of times
When the forest will
Once again spring forth,
And bring birth to new life
Amongst the vast green valleys below.
The bear knows,
Promise from lies,

And truth from the caws
Of crows.
For now, the thaw’s but
A reminder that there’s
A long time to go.
The thaws but a reminder,
Many, many dreams
Will pass before winter’s done
And spring
Once more
Begins again.

The bear cares not
About who’s come and gone.
Boot prints down the frozen river
Smell only of a hunter lost and
The bear has learned
Hunters always go away.
He’s been scarred by
Enough of their bullets
To know,
All the trails into secret
Sacred canyons
Hunters do not know
And cannot follow.