The Polar Bear Exhibit

November 30, 2018

When the exhibit was open,
the air smelled of popcorn and chlorine
and the crowds pressed themselves
paper thin to the rail, straining    
for a glimpse.                             
But the bear just sat there,     
still and grey as a concrete slab   
while the sun cooked a half-eaten fish,    
head still attached         
to the bloody ladder of ribs.        


At the underwater window,
children scoured the empty blue,
whined and pounded the plexiglass,
left in tears.  


The bear swam up
in the quiet—
everyone still there
stepped back.
White fur swayed like seaweed,
paws churned the water, 
black eyes found them through 
the beautiful murk.


Now the exhibit is deserted,
screened from the rest of the park
by a rusted fence.  Leaves fill
the contours of the habitat,
moss amasses in the shadows
and creeps around the plaque:
Polar Bears 
Presented to Stanley Park Zoo
June 1962.  

At the bottom 
of the empty pool lies
an old mattress, sunken
like a mouth without teeth.


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