Bugs dug from bark aren't salty enough,
and the storm-toughened pith found beneath
is hardly sweet. The black bear called Yellow-Yellow
has learned to crave the refined treats backpackers haul.
Snickers bars hilariously sweet, and Ruffles chips
stiff with starch and salt, are secured in special
canisters labeled: bear-proof" on store shelves.
In the field, bears hunch over these puzzles
like Neanderthal addicts trying to solve childproof vials.
They test the intricate locking systems--holding down tabs
with teeth while rotating cylinders with feet--trying to pry
away a prize--the treats a strong reward for fast learners.
Product development gurus use the Adirondacks
as their testing ground--Yellow-Yellow's habitat--
because of her knack at conquering every container,
and proving our nomenclature "bear-poof" in error.
published in Appalachia Winter/Spring 2012
High above the ore mines of Palmerton,
I never expected it, hiking.
But when the air sang in my ear,
I knew the bullet came close.
I hugged the forest floor and shouted
until the rifles stopped popping.
Far down canyon a ricochet of sound
clattered among zinc-rich rock.
One last stray shot out of season,
and a chickadee flushed from rhododendron.
My nose rested on decayed leaves
in the attitude of the routinely hunted--
deer that dodge and freeze--plentiful
among mountain laurel and hemlock.
Who was I to complain? Adrenaline
makes the heart pump faster,
dusts off the complacency of hiking
unguarded into October.
published in Appalachia Summer/Fall 2001