Richard Downing


The last polar bear visited our town last
night. It was burping up parts of Billy
when Big John blew the top

part of its head off with one shot
from a Browning over and under.
Bear landed

on top of what was left of Billy.
Nice kid. Too bad. Bear went right
for the face. That’s what they do.

Most of us asked what the bear was doing
in town. It’s not like them to just drop in.
We figured we hadn’t seen one in a while because

we keep the garbage inside. Otherwise the moose
have their way with it. Ed slaughtered
the dead bear. “No sense letting it go

to waste,” he said, and as an afterthought, “Billy
would have wanted it that way.” From what I saw
of what was left of Billy, he wouldn’t

have wanted any part of any of it. Crazy thing
about it is he was the one that liked the damned
bears. He was always talking about their ice

melting, how it was their ice,
how they needed it to reach the seals.
He’d talk

about how we’re all in it together—
Interconnected, he’d say.
Well he sure was with that bear.



Richard Downing has won the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s Poetry Contest, the Writecorner Press 2010 Editor’s Award, New Delta Review’s Matt Clark Prize, and New Woman Magazine’s Grand Prize for Fiction. His poetry can be found in his chapbook Four Steps Off the Path, in the anthologies Hunger Enough: Spiritual Living in a Consumer Society; Dire Elegies; and Against Agamemnon: War Poems, in many literary journals, and at He is a co-founder of Save Our Naturecoast and holds a PhD in English.