The Woman and the Bear


April 3, 2014 by petrujviljoen


Mind, body, uninhabitable
soul long fled to
unreachable inscapes

Thus she was found,
scraping salt from her cheeks
with an open blade
working towards the
open throat looking on
with reckoning, bloodshot eyes.

Such, such precision
she was made to harness

By whom? … you may well ask

She was made to harness such
precision, mentally
step by step up a tall mountain
one foot exactly
in front of the other …

you haven’t said thank you … She froze.

from deep
the shriek was fetched,
strident rising outrage
cadence none.

Crashing up through
slabs of concrete silence
sustained sound relentless
growing roaring, howling;
the very earth, appalled,
doubted its foundation.

The bear by now awoken
bristled, bellowed its outrage;
a crescendo,
the very air felt threatened
with being rend.

have mercy

the woman at its throat – the bear …

Can’t sustain, can’t, can not
the mountain shook
her soul who heard
the call and rose, softening at its
rise softly, softly rising
gently illuminating,
until she heard
and let it go.


I meant to link this poem to but didn’t make the deadline. My internet connection here often goes for a loop and I have to do what I can when I can.

This poem is directly influenced by one written by Bjorn Rudberg, whose name means ‘bear’. However, he is not the bear in my poem. My poem (if it is one) is loosely based on a fairy story about a woman that had to traverse up a mountain to fetch three hairs from a grisly bear’s throat to appease anger.

10 thoughts on “The Woman and the Bear

  1. This is chilling. Well-written with precise imagery.

  2. claudia says:

    oh heck… i bit my lips wondering what would happen… i think i have heard the story about the woman and the bear as well that you mentioned in the footnotes but can only remember fragments… cool write

    • Thank you. I appreciate the visit. I think I read the story in Women Who Runs with the Wolves by that Estes woman/psychologist. Clarissa Picola Estes? Remember it imperfectly as well, I do unfortunately do not have a copy of the book at hand.

  3. I am so glad you gave us the explanation at the end. The poem is so powerful and I was envisioning worse gore – the plucking of the three hairs makes my heart rest more easily. Smiles. I really like “soul long fled to unreachable inscapes”……..powerful writing!

  4. brian miller says:

    wow…i have never heard that story of the bear…i will have to look it up…i am intrigued…well written piece and quite evocative….i like the energy in it…i tensed up a bit…ha

    • I think I remember the story from the book Women Who Run with the Wolves by (can never remember her name properly) Clarissa Picola Estes or close to that. Nearly said glad you tensed up; means I did a fairly good job. 🙂

  5. Grace says:

    What a frightening moment, you captured the hair raising experience of coming face to face with the bear ~ The mountain shaking, then the letting go was a relief ~

    Thanks for writing ~

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