Matthew Thorburn • At Badaling

The sun bears climb a jungle
gym of rusty pipes
in a cracked concrete pit.
They rise above tumbleweeds
of hair. Their dingy fur hangs
loose as old brown dressing
gowns. They have no names.
Short, pigeon-toed, swaying
like pensioners on two
unsteady feet, they barely
look like bears. They exist
on a diet of sliced cucumbers.
For eight yuan, you can buy
a handful. The sunburned girl
in a fake North Face sells
them there, in the shadow
of the Great Wall. Angry,
bitter, a bit holier than thou—
but then I felt the hot blush
of embarrassment at how
fun it is to throw cucumbers
to half-blind bears and see
them snapped up in mid-air.

Matthew Thorburn is the author of three books of poems, including This Time Tomorrow (Waywiser Press, 2013) and Every Possible Blue (CW Books, 2012). He lives and works in New York City. For more information, visit