National Endangered Species Day: “Polar Bear” by J. Patrick Lewis


Today Is National Endangered Species Day! 

To commemorate the day and raise awareness of one such animal, J. Patrick Lewis sent along his wonderful poem “Polar Bear,” which I am happy to present.

The poem prompted me to look into the polar bear situation a bit more. According to, there are only “20,000 to 25,000 polar bears in the world. In May 2008, the U.S listed the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, citing sea ice losses in the Arctic from global warming as the single biggest threat to polar bears.”

I cannot imagine a world without polar bears and penguins. If only a poem could save them.

Polar Bear

Ursus maritimus
Arctic landmass; Alaska, Canada
Russia, Greenland, and Norway.
Population decreasing

Call me Polar Bear, but beauty, fierceness,
courage, and my surroundings have brought
out the poet in the flesh walkers.

To Russians, I am simply White Bear;
to Danes, Ice Bear; for many, Sea Bear.
Among the Inuit, I am Nanuk,
the animal worthy of great respect,
or The Ever-wandering One.

Norsemen, who wear imagination like a garment,
hail me Sailor of the Icebergs, White Sea Deer,
Whale’s Curse, Seal’s Dread. Their poets say
I have the strength of twelve men
and the wits of eleven.

Siberia’s Ket people esteem all bears.
To them I am Grandfather.

The Lapp people point to me and say,
God’s Dog or Old Man in the Fur Coat.
So intelligent, those Lapps.

Remember all my names—or none.
I am the specter on disappearing sea ice,
losing hold.

J. Patrick Lewis

Home floats away

For more information on Endangered Species Day events, check out the Endangered Species Coalition.


And to celebrate all animals, endangered and un-, I highly recommend Pat’s anthology The National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry. This is a favorite in our house for its incredible photos and two hundred poems by all your favorite poets!


Thank you for sharing your poem, Pat!



Mamma Bear Liz Steinglass has the roundup over at her place.

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See more poems in my poetry video library. 

“Polar Bear” copyright © J. Patrick Lewis. All rights reserved.