No one lives his life

Disguised since childhood,
haphazardly assembled
from voices and fears and little pleasures,
we come of age as masks.

Our true face never speaks.

Somewhere there must be storehouses
where all these lives are laid away
like suits of armor or old carriages
or clothes hanging limply on the walls.

Maybe all paths lead there,
to the repository of unlived things.

—  Untitled, Rainer Maria Rilke

You once believed if you could only
crawl inside a bear, its fat and fur,
lick with its stubby tongue, take on
its ancient shape, its big paw
heavy-footed plod that keeps
the worldwide earthwork solid, this would

save you, in a crisis. Let you enter
into its cold wise ice bear secret
house, as in old stories. In a desperate
pinch. That it would share
its furry winter dreamtime, insulate
you anyway from all the sharp and lethal
shrapnel in the air, and then the other million
cuts and words and fumes
and viruses and blades. But no,

not any more. I saw a bear last year,
against the sky, a white one,
rearing up with something of its former
heft. But it was thin as ribs
and growing thinner. Sniffing the brand-new
absences of rightful food
it tastes as ripped-out barren space
erased of meaning. So, scant
comfort there
Oh bear, what now?
And will the ground
still hold? And how
much longer?

—  –Bear Lament, Margaret Atwood