They really beat up the bear;
That was when he left home.
I think it was to find true love—
Little did he know it never was far,
Nor did anyone figure that was his goal.
Everyone thought he was just a bear, doing what bears do;
Leaving for a while but sooner or later to return.
Five years passed without his return,
Another five more made ten.
Now, only the older ones could catch glimpses of him in the little ones.
Sometimes they would talk of him
but only in whispers and eyes.
Way back when the bear was little,
His parents never seemed to love each other;
Instead, his father would punish his mother.
Slowly the beatings became unspoken monotony.
Everyone knew when it was time to leave.
In those instances of silent longings
The bear would cry himself into solitude,
Except back then the pain wasn’t foreign or abstract.
Everything around him lived and breathed in pain, so he had to leave.
It wasn’t hard or easy to leave home, it just was that way.
The bear set out to nowhere with nothing inside but needs.
Now the bear sits with us, with a long, distant mystery in his eyes.
We are told not to look too long at him;
We are told he is here to die where he emerged.
They say, and they say, and they say . . .
But when no one is watching us, I see through the bear’s scars.
And I know he knows I am watching;
“Superficial wounds, Pahoosh,” he tells me without saying.
And somehow I know he has found love over and over again.
I see that there is no real mystery in his eyes,
Only the resilience of many beatings
Hiding his wonderful universe inside.
Henry Etcitty (Navajo) graduated from the Crownpoint Institute of Technology (N.M.) Electrical Trades program in December 1996. He now works in Tucson, Arizona, as an electrician. He received his associate degree in creative writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts in 1986. “Henrys not a smalltown person,” his mother, Shirley Ellsworth, says. “He’s a constant reader, and he likes to be around people with challenging minds.” Henry is pictured with his niece Quinteena.