Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at] No simultaneous submissions. Use "Verse News Submission" as the subject line. Send a brief bio. No payment. Authors retain all rights after 1st-time appearance here. Scroll down the right sidebar for the fine print.

Sunday, March 06, 2022


by Claire Matturro

A 500-pound black bear named Hank was partially pardoned after DNA evidence revealed that the furry fugitive did not act alone during a seven-month crime spree in Lake Tahoe. —rdnewsNow, February 4, 2022

Maybe it started with that woman—
the one in the fake Tudor—guiding
her Escalade with Greenpeace stickers
through the drive-thru in her fit of fury
hunger on her way home from her divorce,
willing to slum but when she ripped into
the Styrofoam box, a loose fry shimmied
like some pale thin snake. Figuring that
for a cosmic sign, she tossed burger and all
on her garbage can and forgot those bear locks,
which were all too much trouble anyway.
Hank, who didn’t have a name yet,
was this black bear with a keen sense of smell
who followed that waffling whiff of charred meat
all the way to South Lake Tahoe, then
didn’t see any reason to leave, especially
when the lawyer at the turn in the road tossed out
twenty boxes of old girl scout cookies
he’d purchased so his daughter could get a prize.
Hank didn’t mind stale when he dug
through garbage and snuffled up
those cookies, gorging like a teen with
marijuana munchies. In a sugar rush, Hank
ripped through that lawyer’s patio door
to find cannoli and after practically snorting
them, rolled on the floor in bear rapture,  
slamming a whole shelf of knock-off
Lladro ballerinas into shards on the stone floor.
When that pretty couple on the far side
of the lake forgot to put their quiche
in the fridge, Hank found the four-cheese blend
exquisite and there was no going back
to rooting out grubs or scratching his tender nose
in berry brambles or standing in cold water catching
those salmon with their slimy skins. No,
now dubbed Hank the Tank, he
took up burglary to support his gourmet tastes, 
smashing his 500-pound black bear body through 
doors and windows easy as a wrecking ball to get
those oatmeal raisin cookies and steaks 
left out to thaw and pizza in greasy boxes.
He once eyed some bourbon, but
its sharp smell confused him, yet the
stash of coke in the sugar bowl
drove him mad and he crashed his big head
right through the wine cooler and
that’s how he developed a taste for merlot.
The Tahoe vigilantes plotted and pushed
the game control squads to have him shot,
though of course they called it euthanized
as if killing with a better name
would be any less dead for Hank, but
imagine their surprise when DNA showed
Hank the Tank wasn’t the only thief
but three bears bandits were roaming and raiding
like rambunctious kids on a dare
and with an eye for pizza. People whose homes
were not being trashed rose to defend Hank
and his bear buddies, who after all,
had not bitten or hurt a single person.
Meanwhile, in a cool wine bar with ferns
and folk singers, a California kind of guy
nibbles gouda with gluten-free crackers
and writes lyrics to make Hank a hero.

Claire Matturro has been a journalist, a lawyer, and a legal writing teacher at Florida State University and University of Oregon. She is the author of seven novels, including a legal thriller series published by HarperCollins, and is the co-author of a recent novel. She is an associate editor at Southern Literary Review and lives in Florida.