A bear doesn't respond to reward
and law prohibits binding
but there are ways to train a bear.
Brought in under dark to ring three
they pass in flickering silhouette
before a roustabout's lamp-
a linked chain gang on hind legs.
They enter with astonishing speed
towering over their deft masters
a cadre of gypsies who run dogged
as partisans moving by night
behind enemy lines toward some last resort.
What cards were dealt to bring them here-
over moonlit Balkan ranges, through gorges
forest, plain, past ice-wrapped cities
strung along by Sava's flow to the Black Sea.
Once whole families camped with mute beasts,
bears such as these glimpsed in shadow,
the great muzzled heads half-mad held
up and back, balanced like serving trays
over loose sloped torsos of muscled ease
though bent legged below in diapered straddle.
Then house lights flood up
blank-out the chiaroscuro in grease paint glare.
"And now ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls,
children of all ages-
The Montenegros and their wonderful dancing bears!"
The gypsies throw off their cloaks
step forward like royalty.
The band plays. The bears waltz.
The crowd murmurs and shifts to a sequined blond
working big cats in center ring.
Outside, mercury light yellows empty city streets,
and far away bears are sleeping in the woods.