Kelly Shepherd: Self Portrait in Fur


The bear says
to the gathered performance artists
who are attempting a sound poem
that emulates the sounds of a bear
I never know when it’s actually sound poetry
or when it’s someone making fun of sound poetry

The performance artists adjust their bear masks,
wipe sweat from the backs of their necks.
They feel the eyes of the bear on them.
They breathe in unison and grunt their bear poem.

The bear doesn’t recognize this ceremony,
she has never seen it before,
and she has no confidence in its sincerity.
Before donning the fur and dropping to all fours
these human beings were in cars, on the highway,
like every other human being.
They smell like plastic and gasoline.
To the bear these are just more zoo animals,
and she’s not impressed by their tricks.

She shakes a dry saskatoon bush for percussion
and sings an old song.
The performance artists scatter, all but two.
The bear wants to talk, and moves closer.
The first performance artist looks at the other
and thinks about the book of Genesis.
The second looks at the bear
and thinks about the Marian Engel novel Bear.

With all the sweat in their bearskin costumes
they begin to smell less and less like human beings.


Kelly Shepherd‘s fifth poetry chapbook, entitled Fort McMurray Tricksters, was recently published by the Alfred Gustav Press. He has a Creative Writing MFA from UBC Okanagan, and is a poetry editor for the environmental philosophy journal The Trumpeter. Kelly lives in Edmonton.

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