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