Game Theory

by Mary K O’Melveny

sun heated up the afternoon
erased memories of rain
I had just opened the porch door
stepped onto the deck
when I saw her climbing
a black bear    much bigger than me
was on her way up our ancient apple tree
just like last week
up     up     up     last time she bounced
so far out on one limb
it swayed like wheat in a windstorm
apples poured down on the lawn
today she and I stared at each other
directly    like neighbors might
bears can see as well as humans do
despite myths to the contrary
I would swear she knew I was trying
to decide if I should go back inside
for my camera phone   or safety
we both hesitated
it was the whack of the door
that startled her back down the trunk
though she was in no hurry
at the bottom she stopped   looked up
she was still eyeing those apples overhead
I could almost see her shrug
before she loped off toward the meadow
every few feet she looked back
as if trying to decide
whether to venture a return
for a few more bites
choices were waiting to be made
me     inside     camera on the table
she     tree     apples on the branch
each of us
what are risks worth taking

Mary K O’Melveny, a retired labor rights lawyer, lives in the US with her wife in Woodstock, New York (where bears roam freely) and Washington, DC (where other creatures are at large). Her poetry has been published in print and online literary journals and anthologies. A Pushcart Prize nominee, Mary is the author of A Woman of a Certain Age, Merging Star Hypotheses and Dispatches from the Memory Care Museum, and co-author of anthology An Apple in Her Hand.