Today's poem is by Paul J. Willis

Letter to Beowulf

Sleeping under that pine tree the other night
at Young Lakes in Yosemite, I thought of you,
Beowulf, laying down your sweet head in Heorot.

We had hung two packs of food from a stout limb,
then found ancient claw marks raking up the bark
of the lodgepole, high into broken branches—

and just at the roots a pile of fresh bear scat.
Well, no one's ever accused me of being a perfect
Boy Scout, much less a Nordic warrior, but like you

I bridle at the name of coward. So I made my boast,
"Here I lie, I can do no other," and took up my abode
for the night. How stupid we were, Beowulf,

how oafishly arrogant to wait on our backs
for the monster. You chose to put aside all arms,
but I gathered a pile of stones on either side

of my sleeping bag, not to mention a flashlight
(the Wonderbright) and a plastic whistle
(the Thunderer) ready at hand. And when he came—

ah, when he came past dead of night, I fetched
my glasses from my boot and found them fully
fogged with dew. I heard a scratching, sprayed

my light, and lay back down unsure who had prevailed—
or if the bear had come. At dawn I saw our tiny
catchstring pulled up to our drifting packs, but they

still hung undaunted and undamaged there. Granted,
I would like to have torn his shoulder out, and next night
tracked his mother to the bottom of an alpine lake,

but could have been the breeze that blew
our catchstring up, and could have been I trembled
underneath that tree without a cause. That's the price

of being a postmodern hero, Beowulf, a pain I'm sure
you'll never know. Go roast in peace in dragon breath;
we die amid the fumes of our uncertain words.

Copyright © 2008 Paul J. Willis All rights reserved
from Visiting Home
Pecan Grove Press
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

Support Verse Daily
Sponsor Verse Daily!

Home    Archives   Web Monthly Features    About Verse Daily   FAQs  Submit to Verse Daily   Publications Noted & Received  

Copyright © 2002-2008 Verse Daily All Rights Reserved