- Vol. 08
- Chapter 06
Jeremy, Philip and Bear were walking through the forest when they stumbled upon a blue-green piece of metal the size of a frisbee. It smoldered in the foliage of a blueberry bush. The berries had turned to mush from the heat and withered like shrunken witch heads, their purple blood dripping.
"Can we take it home?" asked Philip, an avid collector of leaves, rocks, bottle caps pressed into the dirt like cobblestones.
"Is it food?" Bear asked, mouth watering and stomach growling.
"I think it's from outer space!" Jeremy said, pulling out his magnifying glass.
To take it home, choose 1.
To feed Bear, choose 2.
To investigate further, choose 3.
Read more >
Summer was a no-name season. Grassy days
and long months, full of dreams and health,
and scents of a simple green world, and
the sun and moon were old and young.
We understood that. That was the way
with us because our games had no rules.
And you said, I'm gonna be Charles Darwin.
You can’t, I said, someone else already is.
I wanted to be Tutankhamen,
even though I was a girl.
Emerald beetles owned you that summer.
I wore pillowcases on my arms, wings like
a butterfly. You leapt over logs like a frog.
You said, the air was filled with wet bear, but
it was just Granny’s woollen jumper teasing
your nose. She was always just within sight.
I remember that the sky was thin blue, and
you gave me a flower that smelled like clouds.
Time was slow, and we let it steal us away.
Here’s skill, with fewest marks to paint
the sum required for children’s art!
Red untamed flop or curly black,
two dots for eyes. Then squiggle nose,
that freckle spread with grill for teeth,
neck tassel scarf draped stripy top,
raised paw alert, communicate –
while side, a knapsack and the glass
to magnify adventure’s start.
Broad finger leaves, just one palm vein,
waved over lime sets jungle site.
Then bear, dramatic irony,
that looming threat with snout, mouth skewed,
a broad brush swipe, though chest entreat,
straight eyebrows and the lips curtailed,
first hint, with size of solid tan,
that’s neither wrap nor hair, stark, bare.
The second skill is pose, scene two –
must turn the page to find what’s true,
the purpose fired, imagine – you!
What heroes, frights or pity known,
stored terror, panic to resolve,
green, nature, wildlife in the frame,
the animal in own domain,
grave fears exposed yet hopes aroused?
Turn over a new leaf now … please.
If you go down to the woods
and look really, really, closely
you can see the leaves have veins
some even have tiny hairs
donettles sting, he said morosely
dothe softest grass grazes and stains
doDaddy says beware, beware
but animals are friends, well mostly,
a bear on TV, I saw take pains
lifting a child from its lair
doBears, Mum says, are ghastly
doteeth and claws and evil brains
domost creatures shouldn’t there
so many are now a ghostly
reminder of what man has slain
or ignored, or did not care
dodo you sense something unholy
doa horrid smell like a blocked drain
dooh no! it's a bear, a bear
It’s my bear, he’s so cuddly
I love him and he feels the same
together we're a perfect pair
Before he made the world, the Great Curator whittled
boomerangs and played a game that he'd created called
'Oi come back to me' and had the greatest of fun until
he had thrown all his boomerangs so many times and so
many times they had returned, that he no longer liked to play.
The great creator was bored. Yes. Indeed.
The Great Curator
was so bored, he decided to create a Universe into which
he placed a spinning top he called Earth. He was so pleased.
He filled Earth with grass and trees and elephants and mice
and all the animals you could imagine, even fish which he
dropped into the waters that flooded parts of Earth but
there was something missing so he created children
children with straight hair, curly hair and freckles ... but
there was still something missing so he threw all
the boomerangs he could find and each boomerang
found a place in the face of every animal and every child.
The Great Curator called his boomerangs 'smiles'.
Bear followed Barney wherever he went. No one could see Bear, and Bear didn’t speak, but Barney knew he was there.
Bear was his friend. His only friend.
‘I like talking to you, Bear,’ Barney said over his shoulder – he didn’t need to turn around to check Bear was there; Bear was always there – ‘and I know I haven’t got anything very interesting to say, but you don’t mind, do you?’
Barney knew that Bear didn’t mind. His presence was big and warm, and that was enough for Barney. It was a ‘positive thing’.
Miss Bradley had reminded Barney that there were lots of positive things to celebrate, every day and everywhere. He only had to look. Or listen. Or feel. She told him that his smile was a positive thing for one. She loved to see it, and she would really, really like to see it more often.
Barney tried a big smile for Miss Bradley, to please her. It hurt a little bit, but it made her happy.
Bear put a big paw on his shoulder to tell him how proud he was.
Miss Bradley told the class that over the weekend she would like them to start collecting ‘interesting specimens’ for the Nature Table, so Saturday morning, Barney and Bear climbed through the fence at the bottom of the garden.
A little boy of about Barney’s age was peering into the bushes through a magnifying glass. Barney felt shy, but Bear’s hand was on his back, gently guiding him in the boy’s direction. Barney gave his biggest smile.
‘Hi,’ said the boy, his eyes twinkling. ‘I’m Reuben. Want to see a giant ladybird?’ He handed the magnifying glass to Barney and leaned in so close that their heads touched as they looked through together. Read more >
Overnight, the wilderness came to us.
Someone spotted a brown bear.
School's been outside for awhile now.
A brown bear rooting through our neighbor's trash.
Our parents stay shut-in, but out here, everything is alive.
Overnight, the wilderness came to us.
We focus on bugs under glass and
everything small that crawls on each surface.
School's been outside for awhile now.
Soon enough, our parents' arms will be sore
from the jabs and nothing will matter anymore.
Overnight, the wilderness came to us.
Soon enough, we'll be the ones they shut in.
We hope the brown bear returns before then.
School's been outside for awhile now.
Everything is alive until it's not.
What small things will we track on the floor?
Overnight, we came to the wilderness.
Outside has been school for awhile now.
There is a clue at the end
of the garden gate,
the one with the tangled vines
all growing like octopus arms
with a life of their own.
We found an unsigned note,
more of a scribbled mess,
on a used envelope.
Gerald (he’s the bear)
said that we should follow the instructions,
because it’s a Wednesday
and nothing terribly interesting happens
but today could be different.
Tommy pulled out his magnifying glass.
It was always with him.
He inspected the note, the grass,
The shoelaces took at least ten minutes.
The note said to look for a clue
at the end of the garden gate.
We found a red string,
a gum wrapper, and a footprint.
We walked along the path,
around the tree,
and back to the gate
to find that every last clue was missing.
Read more >
The banana trees were my favourite part of the forest.
They were wild and tamed the beast of hunger in my stomach.
The bananas shone like reflections of the sun, setting in the west.
And I giggled, exultant at my luck!
Here was my summer feast!
My friend jumped along, his magnifying glass – a kaleidoscope of magic –
Augmenting the forest’s wonderful fabric.
We leapt around, in abandon,
Chomping on bananas that tasted like the moon on our tongues.
Summer, was a state of mind.
And as we dug through the soil,
Through the gossamer webs around,
The beetles and butterflies were pleasant company,
But what most enlivened our escapades was the bear following us,
Innocently chortling, her interest piqued – ambling –
Sometimes behind us, sometimes alongside.
She was Curiosity personified.
Her hibernation done, she had conquered the winters,
And now was in the mood for Fun!
Billy and Sam had come to the woods to hunt for mini-beasts.
Billy had brought a picnic. Sam had dressed sensibly in case the weather changed.
Billy searched the foliage with his magnifying glass. He had packed his field notebook and bug catcher.
Sam would count legs and inspect mandibles. Billy would make sketches.
Billy wanted to be an entomologist when he grew up. Sam wanted to be a fireman.
The Bear approached, he was about to relieve himself in his usual spot. The boys had set up camp in a place where A Bear Goes To Get Some Peace.
The Bear opened his jaws, a low growl would suffice. A more gory episode would follow, if necessary. It usually wasn’t.
The Bear stopped in his tracks, and thought: Surely the boys had heard of the saying: ‘Do bears shit in the woods?’
Was he right in wanting to scare the boys, who were clearly in the middle of Something Important?
Did he really want blood on his paws, if their Something Important was slightly more Important than his Something Important?
The Bear raised himself on his hind legs to get a better look.
The boy with the backpack was wearing camouflage of sorts. The one with the red hair wore a matching blood soaked pelt.Read more >
You spent the holiday
in the woods, colourful days,
the two of you and Bear searching
everywhere for something:
frogspawn, ladybirds and butterflies;
poking a stick in a dead squirrel’s eyes;
a spider’s web stretched across a hedge;
cracked-open blackbird eggs,
almost the colour of the bluebells,
and sometimes Easter eggs,
one ear on the distant yells
of other children roaming free,
just like you and Bear,
hunting surprises among the trees.
How pitiful your naïve grip of yearning
Pudgy threadbare veiny flesh, fighting
too quickly – we pick our bad habits, searching
Listen well, let me whisper empathy’s solace
survival tricks resonate best with loosened grips
gently, that’s it – ease away that desperation
Like, knowingly wailing at foreshadowing – realisation
acknowledging bequeathed consequence, as a mere steppingstone
to all those tears within sweet breath we’ve yet to taste
keep them loose and let them glisten – proudly
You’ll soon witness, we’re all just Icarus humility
Dogpaddling defiantly upon our sea of opportunity
Sometimes you just can’t see it
however closely you look,
a case of the wood hiding the trees
with the elephant there in the room.
For safety's sake you need to take a wider view
three hundred and sixty degrees
if there’s no audience to shout it out.
Get ready to run.
if we cave in
if we stay in because of fear or the weather
we will not see the snowflakes, flowers nor feathers
and how much they can do when paired with the wind
if we stay in we will never get muddy nor wet
and we won’t get to pat someone else’s pet
your wobbly milk tooth came out
when you took a bite of that pear
you find it amusing my dislike
of your most favourite yeast spread
and so I say son, again and again, people are different
it’s a big world out there
Here we are in the western woods
searching for clues
with an old magnifying glass
like Holmes & Watson
in The Hound of the Baskervilles.
We spy perfect paw prints
imprinted in the soil
at even intervals,
leading our eyes
into the western woods.
We move ever onwards—
for a moment
that the brown bear
is right there behind us.
What is it I wonder asked Jay, wielding his glass
The tracks go round here said Pete, on the grass
It looks like a brontosaurus
Or maybe, it’s a rhinoceros
Let’s get down for closer study
Down knelt Jay and his best buddy
Maybe a wolf or a tiger
Maybe a lion or a panther
And as the boys swapped ideas aloud
The ground seemed to darken, as if by cloud
The boys rose slowly off the ground
And turned their heads slowly around
To see a large brown shape
With shiny teeth in mouth agape
It wriggled its dog like snout
Both boys gave a fearful shout
Exit two boys
Pursued by a bear
Queen of the Monkey Bars, I sit,
legs dangling over a metal bar,
light beams bouncing off patent-leather shoes
across the schoolyard to blind my rivals.
I am pure balance, as home here,
above the playground, as the blue jay
who mocks me from the chestnut tree
as I walk the six blocks to third grade.
Caught by the wind, my skirt balloons
like a parachute. Blue- and red-striped
polyester lashes at my face, bares thighs
and flashes my pink Tuesday panties.
Ignited by grade-school laughter,
my skin bursts into flames.
I fumble for my hem and lose
my grip on the cold, hard steel.
I fall, like Icarus, to the gravel below.
A new King of the Jungle gym
grins down at me and bellows
a Tarzan-like challenge to one and all.
A motley crew, but friendship binds us
three. Misfits in the wider world, here we thrive.
Magnifying glass, telescope or binoculars drive
our eyes to strange truths. The time will soon come
when we will rescue all of you. Our knowledge
hard won, sheds light on vastness and particularities.
We know blessed difference counts for more then banal
similarities. Our notebooks and our songs hold secrets,
you will meet them, safe in beams of sunlit moonshine.
Just one thing, don't ever try to homogenise our tribe.
Cloud-cover moved in to blot the blue sky as James, Charlie, and the bear arrived at the anthill.
This is bad, thought James. Without sunlight, his tantalizing promise to the brown bear would be impossible to deliver upon.
Both boys loved being outside, and as soon as the snow washed away in the spring they began to eat their school lunches just inside the forested edge of the playground. The largest wild game either ever encountered were the occasional grey squirrels, or nosy crows.
As one might imagine, it came as quite a surprise when the lumbering brown bear stumbled through the low shrubbery of the wooded corridor. Its hair appeared matted on one side, which made sense, since it was time for such beasts to awaken from wintery slumber. The bear rubbed its eyes with the back of one big, furry mitt, and let rip the loudest yawn James and Charlie ever heard. The boys froze to the rocks they were sitting on. Their brains ran away through their open mouths.
"Boy am I famished!" exclaimed the bear. "Wha'choo got there?"
James's tongue loosened before Charlie's did. "Please don't eat us!"
The bear roared again—with laughter.
"Eat you?!" he said. "Why, I'd rather eat the contents of an outhouse."
Charlie, having found his voice, said, "Is that bear really talking, James, or am I unconscious?"Read more >
What is not seen,
what is left out of the picture,
is the object of the scenario.
It makes me want to grab
a magnifying glass
and peer beyond the picture frame
to catch a glimpse of what has no name.
If we put our heads together,
and our wisdom-eyes,
no doubt we would see without looking—
have no need to know
anything but knowing.
The uncertainty bedevils us,
but the problem is not there but here.
Although we have embraced diversity,
overcome racial, ethnic,
and even human boundaries,
we can’t be satisfied just as we are.
If our minds would come back here,
we would no longer be concerned with what lies
in the adjacent picture,
beyond our referential frame.
We are spellbound by what we cannot name.
is a constant feedback;
The child in you
That curiously splashes around
The still waters of your mind
And coerces its imagined beasts
To fall in one straight, executional line
And wades the dense forests in
Tagging along the wisdoms of the dark
Ever the hobbling, wounded companion,
The mind derives evermore pleasure
From lifting up a fallen leaf
And turning it upside down
Looking at the stenciled skin
To find the presence of other things
Including mortal dangers
That lurk around the heavy heart
And cause much suffering
We read nature like an inner being
Inside of us
Like going through a sheaf of writings
That were left behind by those who came
Much, much before us;
To find hints and glimpses of the commons
Read more >
My mother would always ask me to find some self-control
She would tell me many, mind-melting stories about what would happen if I failed
My ears would fall right off my head in protest of the silly words I would speak
Friends would call me “worse than cooties” and would shield their eyes from my face
Bears would chase me as I became prey with an imaginary “eat me” sign above my head
It is not like mother was a “no-nonsense” kind of lady
Yes, she wore nice clothes but drank cheap wine on the weekends
She has also been known to sneak some dark chocolate into her bedroom
No, she is not the type of mother you would not want your children to hear morality tales from
She simply worries that I live by golden rules that she never said out loud:
Be kind or expect cruelties to knock on your door
A little of something is wonderful, but a lot is a worry
The world needs a happy you, not a perfect one
Sometimes I break the rules mother has set out for me
I forgo self-control in favor of self-soothing
When those moments occur I hear a voice imbed itself into my head
It feels like a parasite at first but its calm cadence fascinates me when it says:
“We are better than this and we always will be”
Over your shoulder,
the great bear smiles.
Not benevolent, something
lurking there. The eyebrows
give it away. Not a teddy bear,
though declawed, his fingers
oddly human, his rusty fur
a shade darker than the thatch
that rings your freckled face
in a chaos of cowlicks. Why,
even your straight white teeth
have a certain ursine quality.
Magnifier in hand, I see
more and more resemblance.
I know you’ve spent a lifetime
trying to escape your bear-father,
but surely a part of you knows
that no matter how dense
the undergrowth, the forest
could never be so impenetrable
to prevent his tracking you down
with his sensitive nose,
his superhuman hearing.
Maybe he’ll only envelop you
in his musky arms, rather than
devour you bit by bit by bit.
Hidden in the zero of a
Convex world, blinded.
We are reduced to noughts as the
Circle distorts lines
Of all over orange.
Take cover Great Gordon!
Rucksack flaps in graded shades of
Botany and smiles.
Discover fun in golden rings
Of stories and lies.
Take cover Great Gordon!
I'm trying to understand the joke
by studying it up close with a magnifying glass.
My friend gets it -
or is starting to -
and this other thing here with us -
THE BEAST -
well, he's positively gleeful.
and the harder I look, the less I seem to understand.
The lens funnels the sun into a white-hot beam.
I have to keep twitching it - left,
right, up, down -
to keep from scorching the joke.
At our feet, the poor joke dances,
around my blistering spotlight.
They love it.
Maybe that is the joke.
Our occupational hazard was loosing things, big things, small things, bright things and dumb things we’d build and called machines. We amazed ourselves at our creations and puzzled ourselves at their uselessness after gratifying use. Sometimes we found things adults lost but now they belonged to us so we dug holes and hid them for treasure later but we lost those too. Mother would be furious if we lost her things. She’d say, go back to your last location and find it! But who knew our last location? The magnifying glass? Was it the grazing fields where princess birds perched on cows? Or the dumpster where we held a funeral for Missy after she spent the night out or was it on top the guava trees in uncle’s orchard? But then we also went to the well where I slipped and you pulled me up as the black ants sucked my blood, and the coffee field were our cousin was caught with a boy hiding and ‘not doing anything' she’d said. Beats me why they’d hide and not do anything. When we hide we are almost always revealing something like the sweets you stole from the shop one time, or our new underwear or your thing underneath the pants. Coz mother might be watching, she says the animals are her eyes, the birds are her ears when we run off. Then she talks to the wooden bird on the chimney to snitch on our escapades. But we know how to play hide and seek with the wild, we know how to throw treats their way trapping them so they’ll not tell on us. But you never know, we must still be careful.
The bear is not there
It is a familiar nightmare
Awakened in a strange place
It is a slight light trick
Of the bright daylight
There is no bear there
The bear begins and ends
Within the minefield
Of your fertile mind
It is a mighty night trick
Of narrow shadow arrows
There is no bear there
The bear is a jigsaw piece
Posing in the wrong jigsaw
A mis-remembered image
Like a colouring book
Coloured in badness
There is no bear there
Grandeur-maker, conjuror of worlds.
Leaf-veins flood to Amazons under your burn;
ant-legs thicken to spine-shocking monstrosity; a child’s
palm turns scorched, strange desert expanse. Circle-magic!
Light-bending explosions of the wild invisible: eye-glue, mesmeric;
your wise, blossoming face lends me God’s own eyes. Kapow!
To miss even a sliver-moment of this springing, popping
bomb-blast would be a sin. I hear breathing
at my right shoulder. Just behind.
Deep. A chuckle.
now that age was just another number
after half a life of exploring in the dark
he gaped at how far they had arrived
away from the polaroid, the fiction that
they had lost and found, only by chance
that first flutter of the absent butterfly
that mother forgot to capture in her kodak
had swum wildly along the freckles, the hair
that reminded of stars, smelled of coconut
this they remember, about falling in love
for the first time, not knowing what to call it
two boys out camping in the motley suburb
daring to cross imaged lines of difference
unsuspecting of fluffier desires of company
that could turn into forbidden innocence
salvaged only by a shared summer secret
magnified by scrutiny of a newer kind
guarded by concocted imagination alone
turning into an adventure, they thought
something had hugged them both that day
that hasn’t managed to fade despite time
in a freer world and in a different century
in a togetherness that can now be named
they chuckle at how the universe works
at this story that only they are able to see
in this keepsake curated to bear witness
to the smiles and colours, past and present
winking a warning
as curious, human hands
reach ever closer,
New species rotate soil cover,
borrowing to oblivion –
happy to remain (uncategorised).
Pudgy, greedy thoughts dig
as children with buckets and spades,
searching for treasure -
a gem to hold,
I am a handed-down thunderstorm,
said the bear, and mark this:
however hard you play pattercake
with the ferns you won’t find a
cuddlier nightmare than me. He
went on: I’m necessary because
without some semblance of fear
there is no drive in life – effort,
enthusiasms, endorphins need a
kick start – no, a paw start, a claw
start, so consider me that, your
swipe of an engine, your furry
motivation to get going, again,
out run me, death, entropy,
whichever gets you first.
We keep looking for evidence,
that’s why we are here, I think,
to make a discovery,
to save the world.
I did not want to bring the Bear,
but the grown-ups insisted
and said to take special care,
because he is the last one left.
My microscope sees many things
left here by humans, all the insects
have flown away, or simply died,
and this is the last patch of forest.
Oh friend, look again, plants are waving
can you feel them smiling, welcoming?
they want us to play, to live with them,
Bear feels it too, look at his smile.
Bear speaks: “This is my last day with you,
on this Earth, let’s sort something out –
did you come here to play, or save me ?
All I need is a jungle and I may stay.”
I realise I have been looking too closely
and missed this bigger picture,
time is of the essence and one day left
means there is an awful lot to do.
Oh, m’ tail ‘n whiskers what’s this UFF UFF new toy fun throw fetch fetch fetch
What is it?
Looks like it.
Gimme gimme gimme
Shudup Igor. SIT.
Huh hu huh wan’ it need it love it
Why d’yu bring ‘im?
Wasn’t allowed out without ‘im.
Grrr grr MAIM KILL DESTROY
Stop PUSHIN’ Igor. BACK ya ugly, over-grown mutt.
Honestly. That size yu’d think he’d ‘ave SOME brain.
? ? ?
Why’yu lookin’ through that? It’s big ‘nuff. STAY.
Y’can see through the plastic. There’s stuff inside. Movin.’
FOOD tummy want want UFF UFF UFF
QUIET. Jeez …
I’m sure ‘e understands evry word. ‘es not stupid.
Love you love you gimme gimme you taste nice
RAH! RAH! RAH!
Trying to. Here. Look through it. What d’ya see?
Mmmm. Y’right. There’s thin’s movin’ … swimmin.’
Read more >
Their expedition has been granted approval. Mark and Jay bargain for last-minute supplies, before finally entering the jungle. Filled with trepidation, laced with giddy excitement. Gifting one another conspiratorial glances, egging each other on.
A box of apple juice each, to fortify them. One for Bear, too. The three share a packet of crisps, licking crumbs off their paws. It can be put off no longer. They push further in.
The scent of soil rises to meet them. Each rustle and movement in the towering vegetation a potential threat. They are so glad Bear agreed to come with them.
And finally, what they had hoped for and feared all at once – The Creature. Squat in the darkness, still as a statue. Almost invisible against the dark earth, but for it's iridescent sheen.
“Be careful – look at its horns!” says Bear.
“It’s smaller than I thought it would be,” says Mark. He wants to take it captive. Jay disagrees completely. “Let’s get a closer look.” He pulls out his magnifying glass, and the three of them peer through it.
The Creature is suddenly enormous – all armoured gloss. All scuttling legs. All antlers and fangs.
It turns towards them.
In unison, they jump back – hearts thundering, feet stumbling.Read more >
The resemblance was uncanny
the set of the mouth
ready to bite
rip and tear at life
fight to the last
The shadow wolf snarled
urged his cub
where they could
devour the world
All it would take
would be a whisper
to set the fires burning
Rob had always been blonde; it was only in recent hours that he could be considered a redhead, the hairs in his eyebrows too turning ginger with the hair on his head. It was quickly becoming a concern for all that could see him.
Inspecting the knit of the garment closely, Lewis spied through his magnifying glass in search of some kind of correlation between Rob’s transformation and the scarf tied round his neck.
“The scarf does, I think, seem to be making you freckle.”
This was no doubt. Rob’s face was speckled like an egg.
“Seem?” the ginger boy whined, gesturing at his face in a frenzy. “It’s furious! In no time, I’ll be looking like Bear!”
Bear chuckled behind him, his smile not anxious like Rob’s but instead humoured. He could not see what all the fuss was about; he had been red head to toe all of his life.
“So, why don’t you take off the scarf, Rob, to see if calms the reddening?”
He sighed, “I can’t do that. When the scarf was given to me, it was given to me with trust. I can’t lose that or it for that very reason. I must wear it at all times.”
“Could Bear not wear it, instead of you?”
“Bear is remarkably forgetful, you know that. He can barely remember his way back home.”Read more >
Boris, we looked. We couldn’t find it.
We looked all day, and couldn’t find it.
My friend, the ingenious red-scarf bandit,
Said he’d find it. He couldn’t find it.
My other pal, equipped with yellow
Backpack, stuffed with handy devices
(Assorted magnifying glasses,
A compass and a small umbrella),
Retraced your steps and thought you might
Have dropped it on your way to work,
Stumbling along, drunk in the dark,
Perhaps around the garden gate.
We searched the bushes carefully.
We stooped and peered. We sniffed the air.
We could not see it anywhere.
Oh where is your INTEGRITY?
It’s child’s play, some say. But, blast it,
We couldn’t find it, though we tried
And tried and tried and tried and tried.
Maybe, Boris, it never existed?
“Mattie! We’re on expedition you’re supposed to be in camo!” Ferdi exclaimed in disgust as his pale, ginger topped friend appeared in x2 magnification amongst the ferns, complete with stripey shirt and bright red woolly scarf.
“Sorry, I didn’t want any creepy crawlies going down my neck, but now they’re all stuck to my scarf,” he cried, brushing them off hastily.
The January sunshine glimmering through though the dense foliage suddenly disappeared as a dark shadow fell across Ferdi and hot air blew uncomfortably through his tight curls.
“WHAT-Looks like they’re the least of your problems, Mattie. Who’s your orange friend?” whispered Mattie turning slowly and staring wide eyed at the grinning, towering statue of ruddy furriness displaying a disproportionately small and rather menacing orifice.
“Stop creeping up on me!” Mattie shouted taking a superhero stance.
Ferdi watched agog, as Matti proceeded to berate the creature who hung his head and retreated quietly into the wilderness where he belonged.
“You speak to him and he understands?” Ferdi asked slowly, with a new respect for his freckled friend.
“Yeah”, Mattie replied nonchalantly. “He’s just a bully, thinks he’s some big shot in this place. Apparently, he used to live in the jungle until he was fired for disturbing the peace and chucked out. He tries to push the other animals around and create a bit of hostility, but I don’t stand any nonsense. I’ve told him the forest is home to all manner of creature and that’s how the environment works best, so he’d better get used to it.”
“Aren’t you scared he’ll eat you?”Read more >
Excuse me, my friend, if you'd be so kind
It appears that I'm in somewhat of a bind
There's something that I've been trying to find
Though I've looked high and low, it remains undefined
I see something in you that may serve to remind
Please help me my friend, if you'd be so inclined
Perhaps you should bother to glance behind
There's an obvious bugbear to which you are blind
That your handheld device cannot help you find
And to which your fate you have wholly consigned
I know this may sound a bit harsh and unkind
What you seem to have lost is your rational mind
His only weapon,
that smile, bee in a flower,
demands a return
contains a command
Did he learn that as a boy
how to smile a knife
how to sling a smile
with deceptive nonchalance
a mockingbird's song
a blackmailer's note
carefully cut and pasted
in a gull wing curve
like a boomerang
When we were kids you always carried around that magnifying glass that illuminated all the vibrancy of youth. We wanted to see it all, bigger, closer and better. Especially the other world of tiny people with more than four legs and as many eyes to match. Their little cities in the undergrowth where they marched in and out with all the order of a concrete metropolis, barely noticed by those fully grown. It is the job of children you see, to bear witness to that which adults can no longer.
Although we saw glistening bugs no bigger than a comma, we never saw the red beast growing nearer. It crept slowly, but pounced suddenly and before we knew it your magnifying glass was gone. We could no longer see the specs of life strutting through the leaves, so we stopped looking. Then one day, one came to you and I watched you swat it away. You said it was a nuisance.
Keeping bears away from food remains a major preoccupation of camping Americans. Although 1960s vintage national park footage shows tourists feeding sandwiches out of packed lunches straight into a bear’s mouth, park authorities soon put a stop to that. Too many serious injuries after visitors ran out of sandwiches and over-enthusiastic bears jumped into cars in search for more snacks.
Those of us who ventured up into mountains and across valleys for multi-day hikes confronted the challenge of safely stashing our powdered soups and instant noodles overnight. The recommended tactic involved wrapping food in a sleeping bag “stuff sack”, affixing it to a cord, tossing it over a tree branch and suspending it high enough that the bear couldn’t reach it from the branch above or the ground below. The National Parks provided pictorial guides specifying the height of the tree, girth of the branch, and distance from the trunk to optimise bear-proofing. Many things could and did go wrong – no suitable trees, broken cords, exceptionally tall bears – and campers exchanged tales of different ways they lost provisions to bears or bad luck, such as irretrievably entangling the parcel in high branches. There were a lot of hungry hikers emerging out of the woods.
One hot August night, my friends and I were awakened a few hours after we’d snuggled into our tents by a persistent crunching sound. Emerging with flashlights, we looked around for a bear we assumed would be straining to reach the bag of food swaying overhead, or stretching down from the branch. Sure enough, there it was, a big furry shape in the dark, peering at us with amused eyes glowing in flashlight beams. It had climbed up the tree to the branch from which we had hung our food, but rather than risk balancing on the limb to try to grab the bag from above, this bear’s strategy was to chew through the whole branch. It resumed gnawing. “If a bear does attempt to procure your suspended food parcel” our helpful leaflet advised “make loud noises, e.g. by banging pots and pans or knocking rocks together. Read more >
The tiny flea remained still. Its round, electric green eyes magnified and magnificent. Its legs, planted firmly in the soft soil, remained steady. The bright afternoon sun, shielded by a collection of lanky bodies that loomed large over the small creature, continued to shine. Blankets – gingham, grass, dandelions, weeds, fleas – everywhere. In the hierarchy of things, the tiny flea had no advantage. The sheer delight on the faces of the glass-wielding children offered a mirrored reflection of the sheer dread on that of the flea. Only no one asked and no one was watching. Except for a pregnant robin, at rest and on guard, in the nest of the tree that was rooted, in the soft soil, behind the group. She was both out of reach and out of options. The circle and cycle of life all-consuming. Even as the flea remained silent the surrounding world continued to buzz.
“Catch it,” one shrieked.
“I’m trying,” yelled another.
“Shhh,” offered a third. “Don’t let him know.”
“Him?” taunted a young girl a few feet to the right.
“Oh, brother,” responded a young lad to the left.
Banter bounced like sun rays off the magnifying glass, the children’s spectacles, and the dewy shards of grass. Life buzzed. Tensions rose. The tiny flea remained still. Its round, electric green eyes magnified and magnificent. As one youth yawned, a yellow jacket buzzed just to the right of another lad’s right ear. He shrieked and all of yesterday’s reminders dissipated like scoops of cherry ice on a blazing hot summer afternoon. The group fled and the glass dome dropped, just to the left of the flea’s front legs, still planted firmly in the soft soil. The metal instrument bounced gently, rolled, then found a new home in the soft green grass. The flea flapped its tiny wings then fled, in the direction of the children. Blankets – late afternoon sun, yellow jackets, daisies, yawns – everywhere. In the hierarchy of things, the curious youth had no advantage.
The songs of innocence have faded
and those artless days are a blur
when we told each other
stories of buried gold and hidden treasure.
It was so easy to suspend disbelief
while one played a cop and another a thief;
those days of primary colours of blue, yellow and red,
when we thought teddy bears never feel hungry
because they are always well-fed.
We have left those days far behind
but back then it never crossed my mind
that The Jungle Book, Bagheera and Balloo
are a writer’s fancy, not real and true.
Today, I seek my lost innocence with a magnifying glass
I’m sure it must be found somewhere here
in this hushed woodland, amidst the green grass
Oh! the magic and the endless pit of creativity childhood brings
eyes glimmering with excitement and mischief
mixed with equal proportion;
where every day brings the opening of a new dimension
Bottomless excitement coupled with endless skittering
One more day to be jotted down in the summer journal as
a bookmark for our dainty memories
giving us reasons to live in our hay days
A soft cushion for our endless childhood stories
Remembrance of one such day, our endless visit to the
back forest in our small town
Our small footsteps making the sturdy path in the wet mud
A masterpiece our puny feet are proud of
Summer break comes with a plethora of choices
in minds brimming with excitement and leisure
as we put on their best outfit
ready to embark on a journal called adventure
We hop, skip and run through the muddy trails beating the bushes
Sharp shrills in our voices filling
warm bosom of the kind blue skies
counting the toadstools on our ways
singing the rhymes we learned days and nights
We both know there is a method to this madness
only me and he could tell;
the fluttering of monarch wings against the sun
becomes a kaleidoscope washed by the spectrum of color
The holy triumvirate:
Father (hungry Eurasian brown bear)
Son (curious boy)
Holy Ghost (only a ghost
would wear a red scarf)
Give us this day
all life has meaning
our daily bread
Nothing is more
and forgive us
Nothing is less
We are all equal
in the eyes of
Boy: Watch this
Boy: Get out of the way,
you are blocking the sun
and I want to roast
Ghost: I am incorporeal
Boy: Your scarf isn't
Ghost: Oh shut up
Fur warm as a womb
Cloudy white teeth
Gigantic hairy face
Fists full of honey
Here comes a Red Bear!
Who claps at our wins
And smiles at the stunts
Gulps all our mistakes
Only to let us summon
We all need a Red Bear!
Often hugs our anger
Halts the rolling tears
Evens out the frowns
Calms the damn scares
We all need a Red Bear!
Always patient in the dark
Stands silent in pain
Jumps high at our dawn
Dances crazy in the rain
We all need a Red Bear!
Speaks well despite the failures
Gives us another chance
Grants us an apology
Fully accepting our parts
We all need a Red Bear!
But what is this! Exclaimed Arthur, standing close behind me.
Why it’s a bug! I shouted back.
A yellow wormy squirmy spotty little bug that can fit snuggly in the palm of my hand.
What kind of bug is it? Arthur asked, his large brown furry hands rubbing together, running his magenta tongue over his pincer teeth.
Stop it, Arthur! I complained, whirling around to face him.
You promised you wouldn’t eat another one! Jude shouted at Arthur from beside me, his cheeks glowing red around the cluster of freckles dusting his face.
I’m sorry my friends, but one surely couldn’t hurt … Arthur trailed off, inching closer and closer to the yellow worm-like bug.
No! We shouted, but it was to no avail – with a great sweep of his enormous furry arms, matted with leaves and gravel, he knocked us aside, and stuck his snout into the dirt, woofing up the yellow wormy squirmy spotty little bug in one titanic bite.
Arthur! Jude and I shouted. You promised!
I’m sorry my young friends, I simply couldn’t resist! Arthur had a yellow pasty goo smeared around his nose.
I rubbed my elbows, and brushed the dirt off of my cyan jumper. You’re useless Arthur!
We forged on then, and I held tightly onto the straps of my golden backpack, keeping my friends safe inside.
My black magnifying glass grew sweaty in my palm, and my stomach somersaulted. A large groaning, bubbling, squelching noise echoed from behind me. Arthur was doubled over on the grass, clutching at his large brown bear belly.
Read more >
You may think we are children, he's a bear
Glad to be outdoors, walking together
Spirit of adventure, finding something
We never noticed before
We are three explorers looking for something
We rescued a stag beetle on its back
We found a bee orchid
What we're looking for
Doesn't have to be rare
We found an air raid shelter
From the Second World War
We saw chestnut horses give riding lessons
Watched men roping and measuring pines
Before buzzing down our jungle
We hadn't seen it before
You may think this is a paradox
To look for serendipity, so much the better
We particularly enjoy finding a paradox
Something we never noticed before
“I think there’s a bear in these woods,”
Said the freckly kid with red hair.
“Oh no, but that just cannot be,”
I told him, “There isn’t one there.
There aren’t any bears in these parts,
You’ve just heard some startling sound:
It’s only the wind in the trees
And that’s why I won’t turn around.”
“I think there’s a bear in these woods,”
Said the freckly kid once again.
“Oh no, the zoo’s too far away
And nothing escapes cage or pen.
There aren’t any bears in these parts,
You must have been scared by some book:
It’s only a rabbit or deer,
And that’s why I don’t need to look.”
“I think there’s a bear in these woods,”
Said the freckly kid one more time.
“Oh no, there’s no bears around here,
It’s entirely the wrong kind of clime.
The beetles are what enchants me—
Just come take a look through my glass,
The bear’s not compelling at all— If I met one, I’d give it a pass.”
“I think there’s a bear in these woods.”
“But, why this obsession with bears?
And, why would they interest us?
Our lives aren’t much different from theirs.
Read more >
"We're going on a bear hunt.
We're going to catch a big one.
What a beautiful day!
We're not scared..."
...is how it’s commonly meant to go.
Bear laughs, and chucks the book into a mud patch.
“We’ll go THROUGH it,” he mocks under his breath.
“This is how it’s supposed to go,” he announces, to the great expanse of forest:
“We’re going on a child hunt.
We’re going to catch a small one.
We’re so hungry!
What a beautiful day!”
Pasted in the photograph album was May 1976. The heatwave began early that year. We started flinging off our jumpers and dived in to the heat and buzz, the year when everything turned golden.
That day, my brother and I coloured in our final entries for the picture competition on the back of the cereal box. We ate a lot of honey oats that week and our teeth became glued smiles. On the last occasion, he’d won a magnifying glass, although it had all got a bit too Sherlock Holmes for my liking. Of course, there wasn’t any evidence to suggest that we’d find it but he was persistent, so we searched. If only he had told the tooth fairy, we could have saved ourselves the trouble.
Investigating life on earth,
the boys discovered life in miniature.
Grinning, they let themselves be guided by
a curiously eager, friendly bear,
who led them off the public path,
and seemed au fait with all the literature
regarding nature's great diversity.
(He fell behind and shed a secret tear
to think that soon his hungry mouth
would fill up with a double dose of dinner.)
They stopped – I do not know exactly why –
only that it was exactly where
a hunter, in his patient stealth,
hid waiting . . . BANG! It caused a modest stir,
that single shot. The shocked birds filled the sky.
Those boys don't know how fortunate they were.
Two young boys saw a plant so rare
Whilst exploring the woods without a care
James took his spy glass, leaned in to stare
So did Will with the flaming hair
From deep within his winter lair
Bear’s nostrils quivered as he smelled the air
Tummy rumbled, his teeth did he bare
Thought mine all mine, no need to share
So deeply entranced, the boys weren’t aware
That behind them stood a drooling bear
Who licked his lips at the sight of the pair
So easy he thought it’s hardly fair
A short while later a girl came by
Saw James’s spyglass, played eye spy
Till her little jaw dropped and the spyglass too
This thing in the grass, could it be true?
She knelt and looked at her find right there
Twas an orb, an eyeball with unblinking stare
Bear wanted dessert and turned quite surly
Recalled the boy whose hair was curly
And better the boy, hair red like a mane
Bear needed more now or he’d go insane
And here like magic, before his eyes
A sweet little girl, of pudding size
My name is Herakles the Hippo. I am not a bear.
You got that right.
It's a birthmark, not a nose. My muzzle and my teeth may have shrunk with age, and fur may cover my entire body. I may even have learned to stand on two legs (everyone can do that with time, and I've had plenty) but I am NOT a bear.
It's okay. I suppose I can understand. After all, you don't see furry hippos every day. In fact, you don't see furry hippos at all anymore.
There's just me left.
I peek out through the shrubbery, watch the children play in the park. There are two boys playing that odd glass-circle-with-handle game that I still don't get. One of them holds the glass circle; the other brings him things to look at through the glass circle. I'd like to know what they're doing, but I can't run out to look. If I do they run away and the glass circle will be thrown in the grass, forgotten in their fear of "the big bad bear". If I'm unlucky the circle breaks, and I'll step on it when I go out to hunt tonight. I'll wipe my feet dry as to not lead people back to my den, obviously, but before the bleeding stops it will flow freely. Then, ultimately, there will be more material for the newspapers and their gossip about "Herakles the Bear" come morning.
It was Teddy, at first. In the papers. "Teddy Bear". I tipped them off though, slipped a note in a reporter's Starbucks cup (you'd be surprised at the agility my toes have developed). If they're gonna spread terror stories in my name, it should at least be in the right name. It took some time for the name change to take off, but now it floats. I suppose it's the colour of my fur. Blood red fur suits a Herakles better than a Teddy.
Read more >
“Oh my goodness, I’ve never seen anything as exciting as that”, said Paul.
He held his magnifying glass transfixed to the sight.
“Let me see”, said Andrew, determined that he wouldn’t miss out on this incredible event.
“You can have the magnifying glass, but just for a minute, it’s mine from home”.
Paul didn’t really want anyone else to use the magnifying glass, it had been a present from his grandfather on his last visit, but Andrew was his best friend and he knew he was trustworthy. Also, this was an amazing thing and Paul needed Andrew to be able to confirm his story to the others and to Miss Bott.
“Whoa” exclaimed Andrew. Paul had been right, this was an amazing sight. It was a good job Andrew had seen it so that he could back up Paul’s story. Miss Bott would never have believed it if only one person had actually seen it, but now they’d both viewed it she would have to believe them.
“That’s the best thing I’ve ever seen in my life, ever. Paul, we’re going to definitely win stars for this. No one else will have anything as amazing as this to report from their nature observations.”
The boys were so excited, they usually missed all the best stuff, they were the quiet ones who preferred playing indoors to charging around outside, they probably wouldn’t have even bothered coming outside today if Paul hadn’t brought his precious magnifying glass to school.Read more >
What is this on my hand? cried Jamie.
Let me see! demanded his cousin Eric, holding up a magnifying glass.
Oh no, I rested my hand on the tree and now its all sticky. I think this is honey dripping from that tree--look up higher--aren't those bees flying around up there?
Eric peered up into the tree. I think you're right! Bees or aliens from outer space trying to get us stuck to the tree.
Jamie began to laugh until he looked at the magnifying glass. There, reflected in the metal rim of the magnifier was a bear!
"Run!" Both boys ran for Grandma's back porch. The bear started to climb the tree, pausing now and then to lick some the honey that was dripping down.
Grandma called the police and the zoo just up the street. Yes, a small brown bear had escaped. A cub.
The zoo people came to Grandma's yard and took the cub back home to the zoo and Mama Bear. The police were happy no one was hurt. Jamie and Eric watched the zookeepers take the bear away.
"You know, Eric, I think eating the honey made the bear shrink. He was much bigger when he was standing behind us."
"I agree, Jamie. I agree."
After we let the photograph develop we found an animal had photobombed the picture of Tam and Pip. It was an old camera. One of those Polaroids. With a little slot in the side where the picture came out. I held the tiny square in my hand and we watched as the chemicals reacted and a new image emerged.
In the first picture it was a lion, with a huge mane. In the second, it was some kind of monkey, hanging from the tree above Pip and Tam’s head. In the fourth, it was a boa constrictor. He had a hungry look and both Pip and Tam looked round to check he wasn’t really there.
I took another photo while they were watching a picture of an elephant emerge from the grey wash of the paper. While they waited for the ears and trunk to sharpen into focus I watched the new picture. It was a bright brown bear. Smiling over their shoulders, watching the picture appear.
We took eight photographs that day. All of them populated by unexpected animals. It never happened again. It was just that one film.
Later, when Tam and Pip were both grown up we were flipping through an old album when they found the old pictures. Pip looked at me and laughed, he couldn’t quite believe the photographs were real. Like so many good memories from childhoods saturated with colour and imagination, he thought it was something he'd dreamed.
The unrivalled beauty of a glowing season
With rays like parrot wings,
Making the fruity trees spin daintily.
As mother earth pasteurized artistry beyond limits,
Spreading charmingly like floating peacocks And the wind seems to chime melodies of chirping birds.
The spotlight on Tom and Harry,
Green in years like dewy glades,
Knitted in harmony and diversity,
Away in a world of innocence not yet obliterated.
Like how life is meant to be,
Expressing the simplicity of love,
To love thy neighbour as thy self.
Tom searching for butterflies on the dewy glades,
Spotted a microscopic message on the magnifying glass,
Harry in an outfit perfecting the summer balance,
Laughing heartily as Tom pulled a string,
That the pandemic is now a souvenir of science,
Rolled away by summer.
Gruffy following at a distance,
Its red fur like a fire breather
Old and blind to stir a fly.
"So, what now?" Jay said, his hot face glistening.
They had to find Doctor Jankle. The last two survivors of the TOP SECRET expedition that set out SIX WEEKS ago, JAY and KAY had used the MAGIC MAGNIFIER to locate and follow her tracks. Something told them that their toughest test was still ahead and that they would have to work together if they were going to FIND the only person who knew the way home.
They had left camp at dawn’s CRACK. The plan was to keep up a steady pace through the morning, knowing by afternoon that progress would be slow as they entered the NOTORIOUS SWAMPFOREST with its vile, knotted stenchweed and oozing, luminescent pusrocks. The day had reached high heat.
"Doctor Jankle’s directions, they seem to end here," said Kay, checking the list he had carefully drawn on his palm in SUPER-MINI script, just as Jankle had taught him. "Left or right?" said Jay, talking more to himself than his friend, examining the ground in both directions. "There’s something urging me right," Kay said, "I feel I have to go that way…" "Then you know we must take the left path," said Jay. "Doctor Jankle warned us about the presence of the ORBEARANGE manipulating our thoughts once we pass the last pusrock."
A loud thrashing came from a gramjam tree to their right and then… a SILENCE. "Watch out!" shouted Jay. They ducked as a cloud of micro-battybats skimmed across their face freckles. "Left. Definitely left!" Jay said, making the move. "We MUST keep our WITS about us my friend; we didn’t get this far by being careless."Read more >
1. “Never go to bed with wet hair.” She often said this to me whilst combing out my chilli pepper red curls, my father’s hair.
She would sometimes wonder aloud - how she carried me for nine and a half months, only for me to turn out looking like a near replica of him from the photos. I shared her eyes though, shaped like an almond with pupils the jet black glimmer of an onyx.
If eyes are the windows to the soul, I must share some of yours, I would always tell her back.
2. “Wear red for luck.” She usually said this during specials festivals and holidays. Or before we visited my grandparents. Or when it was cold out and I had a foot out the door. The last contained in a shout, quick steps, with heart red scarf waving in hand.
“But we’re going hiking this time”, my friend Karthik exclaimed, “he’s gonna attract a bear or something.” But she ignored this and simply wound the knitted scarf around me tighter. Each stitch a little prayer - for safety, happiness, inclusion. Then she bent down to my height, and our souls mirrored for a second, before she stood up and shooed us out. But I knew she would watch in the doorway till we were out of sight, as the two of us, with excitement in our toes, set off for our next adventure.
Russell was the brave one, charting their course through the wood. Ivan was the sensible one, who brought the rucksack. Sandwiches, compass, sticking plasters. Ready for anything.
They searched the undergrowth with Ivan’s magnifying glass, looking for minibeasts. What a carnival! The beetle, the centipede, the cricket, in a parade of wiggling legs and waving antennae. Out-of-proportion bodies and too-many-limbs, cavorting in a meaningless dance.
But they didn’t notice Bear, with his hungry eyes and lolloping tongue.
“At last!” Bear said, rubbing his paws.
Russell fell back into the thicket and stopped being the brave one.
“Please, don’t eat us!” Ivan protested. He was ready for anything. Including reasoning with hungry bears.
“Eat you?” Bear guffawed. “No chance!”
They listened as Bear explained: bears don’t eat children. That’s anti-bear propaganda, issued by people with serious misunderstandings.
“But I would like your help.”
Bear had an agonising toothache. It meant that enjoying a fish supper, or a dollop of honey before bed, was unbearable. A trip to the dentist was required.
Ivan and Russell agreed to help. They opened their surgery in a clearing, a gap in the canopy lending the perfect light. Bear made himself comfortable on a tree stump.
“Open wide!” said Ivan. Bear opened his jaw, and the boys exchanged a look. Russell decided: he was definitely not the brave one.Read more >
We wet our naked feet in streams
That swell with the sky. Our hearts
Curdle together at the cusp of a
Flash flood carrying us upward. Past the
Unakite covered in dragging green lichen
Past the gaping caves inviting us in with
Fairy voices hidden under the growls
Past the wicked towering rocks
Bare now because the hills receded around them
We touch the moon a
Lonely song’s echo before
The sun bursts out.
Frogs! Here! Last week in the rain
a tiny frog hopped near the drain.
It's skin was horrid - rough and bumpy
spotted dark and nastily lumpy.
It was swimming too in the water
fast and sleek just like an otter.
When it lifted its head to look around,
I crouched near it on the ground.
It swivelled its head in complete surprise.
and stared at me with suspicious eyes.
So I held up my magnifying glass
and asked if I'd be allowed to pass.
I'm not a hunter, frog do not fear
there's no danger at all lurking here.
It's tongue flicked. Oh please do stay
I'd like a friend who wants to play.
I stroked his back, made a wish
then there was a huge wet splish.
The frog leapt out of the little pool
Will you take me with you to school?
I want to learn, to hear the tales
of princesses, kisses and singing whales.
I'm bored just swimming, in this pond.
Of mathematics, biology I'm really fond.
I promised to come back with a net,
with proper equipment we'd be all set.
The frog laughed, whispered low,
I'm really a prince, don't you know?
Were I to live a second life, would I go back to childhood and join forces with Lyra from Oxford to do a Sherlock Holmes, and rescue all the poor stolen children? Would I befriend the King of the Armoured Bears, and fly to the Northern Lands astride a witch’s cloud-pine? While the North will no doubt be dark and grey and perishing, there’ll surely be plenty of exciting adventures for me, enough to last a (second) lifetime?
But my conscience has me in its grip: Don’t be enticed into living your second life in Second Life and get conned by the digitised perfection of an avatar! Go and live your second life in the blistering heat of battle in the streets of Yangon, where soulless soldiers are shooting unarmed protesters in the head, while the world sits watching, offering only empty pious words for newspaper headlines. Sneak into a camp where water is scarce to drink, let alone, in this corona-age, for washing hands.
Stricken, I say to myself: Sail to Lyra’s Oxford if you wish, but when the fictional journey is done, come back, always, to the real Myanmar, to the horror we still call Syria. Look at the gaunt face of a starving boy on a sinking boat, and see that he is absolutely terrified. Shine a light on the slums with no millionaires (not even teddy bears), where food-bank children don’t know who Lyra is, who’ve never visited a university town.
While aching for simple childhood joy, I know a second life only, and always, begins here and now, in this singular, ambiguous world where I live, not any other blissful alternative universe. Nostalgia for innocence goes back all the way to the Garden of Eden, but should I not choose the Tree of Knowledge ― should I not choose the Fall ― and bravely accept finitude, the marker of my first, second, third... life?
“I can’t find your missing smile anywhere
nor see your lost right eye
and your absent ear just isn’t responding
to any screams calls or whistles
neither is my disappeared right ear”
redheaded Stripe reported
through his paining toothy grin
“Neither can I…
and I really can’t tolerate it…
it’s so hard to perceive all
with a single eye
despite this cyclops magnifying glass
and impossible to speak
without a mouth
at least with my left ear
I can hear Stripe’s desperate search for clues
as to these unaccounted for manifestations”
black-haired Curly mused to himself
the massive brown bear
lurking silently behind Stripe
remained unseen to him
a partially deaf and speechless Curly
‘Be ready!’ – ‘Always ready!’ That is how the school day started. They shouted the answer, raising their right hands above their heads, fingers pressed together, palm flat, thumb pointing down as if they were about to split themselves down the middle.
Some mornings they assembled around the flag. Outside in the courtyard, their little bodies arranged into a perfect square. All eyes were supposed to be on the principal. When called forward, one wasn’t allowed to approach the flag in a diagonal line. Instead one had to walk in a straight line and turn at a right angle, and walk again in a straight line, always looking ahead, not at the rows of white and blue shirts, blue and red kerchiefs, left, right, behind, before.
It was an ordinary school, and they were ordinary children. Each class had a group council with a chair and several officers serving under him. Neat. Hierarchical. Tidy. Everyone was playing their role. Well, almost everyone.
After school, some of these children would gather in the shadow of an old church. St Luke’s. The top of one of its two towers had been damaged in the war. With its flat, stunted roof, it looked like a half-blind octagonal owl that watched over them, as they abandoned their satchels and began to play.
They journeyed into different worlds. Never just cowboys and natives, but Winnetou and Old Shatterhand, and their feisty followers. They had no inkling that the Apache chieftain bore a strange resemblance to Jesus, nor that his German blood brother was the alter ego of both their creator, Karl May. They didn’t mind he had never been to the Wild West. That he had only dreamed of it. That is what they did. That is all they could do.Read more >
Boys focus on what is in front of them
fascinated by a dance of ants as they ceilidh
round their nest – a rush of frantic antics.
One kid flashes a magnifier to study
legs, antennae, head, thorax, abdomen,
the hard, chitin coat of the exoskeleton,
more like a shiny, liver-coloured,
plastic mac under his lens.
His passive auburn friend has no spyglass
is merely gleeful to see that, under sunlight,
ant-bodies reflect red on the spectrum.
The insects, oblivious to the small giants
observing their Lilliput lives,
carry on with the tasks in front of them:
to build a colony, support the breeder, feed the queen,
protect her issue, remove the dead.
In turn, the boys are blind to the giant
of a bear
peering over their peering
with the same glee-filled grin as the red-haired lad,
still fixated on his ant-nest quest.
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When Jim and Tom built their machine
It was to see things never before seen
To make the small extra large
Like, the size of a barge
So they could get a closer look
And write their findings in a book
But then something went wrong
When Tom brought his teddy bear along
Marcus was his name
And though no one was to blame
He got zapped and not only grew in size
He also started blinking his eyes
Somehow Marcus had come alive
Immediately ready for a test drive
Of his pure evil mind
Ingenious and one of a kind
He wanted the boys to reverse the machine
To make big things even smaller than a bean
Marcus proposed to give it a try
With Tom's guinea pig Eli
It was reduced to the size of a flee
Almost impossible to see
So the boys took a magnifying glass
After putting Eli on the grass
And then he swooped low to the ground, searching for his newfound discovery that glinted in the sunlight a mere second earlier. Where was it? The sparkle had disappeared, but the object was well-hidden beneath layers of dirt, and to find a simple small corner peeking out would take ages.
He felt his friend hover behind him impatiently, blocking any light and shrouding everything in darkness. Desperate, he ran his fingers through the moist soil, the smell fairly pleasant and the feel cool and comforting.
"Bear with me," he muttered. "I'll find it."
The creak in my knees and the ache in my back
make me doubt I ever played carelessly
among tall leafy greens and the ocean of my mind.
The line between real friends and imaginary was blurred
and the only thing defined was the freedom of no rules.
I moved in and out of a multitude of personas in play
and felt inundated with things to explore every day.
The newness and novelty of the outside world matched easily the imagined cosmos within.
No conflicts, no agony, no angst, no anxiety...
only vibrant colors like a day freshly washed by spring showers.
Now with fading sight I look back at those days,
and feel a joy once again,
the memories assuage some of the knee pain...
a warmth covers up the ache in the back.
And no longer do I curse the years that made me lose my track.
There’s sometimes something venomous
to magnify and mourn our boys.
They spy and stare at coiled snake,
poke low the weaker rattle, hiss,
may take his living as their toy.
No man can joke this pair’s not warned.
Or rearing battle streaks of spoil,
excite to turn their wreak to soil,
concentrate sun’s glare of light,
and burn the meeker sight they saw.
If this is fable, seek to learn
if there must be some fate and cost.
Come see here, you’ll peek and find:
two boys who crossed a stable world
were blind to bear’s maw poised with paw
curled just one tree behind.
I was born in Taiwan
Officially Republic of China
In a factory outside Taipei
Then shipped off to America    where
They acquired me at a hardware
Located in Brightwood DC
Paid nine dollars plus taxes
Little change from ten bucks    for
Three amateur super-sleuths
Ginger, Black Hair, Brown Bear
Off into Rock Creek Park
On the frolic of their lives    just
Intent on resolution
Of World mega-problems
With me as aide-de-camp
Recruited for acute vision    when
Looking behind verdant leaves
Upsetting apple carts
Magnifying the meaning of all life
In stones, gravel, grains    found
Nothing but minutia
Mere discards of mankind
Cigarette butts, soda bottles
Paper floating in the breeze    but
Young Jack and Johnny stood with Brown Bear in awe of their find. Jack took his magnifying glass and looked at the shiny gold coin soiled with mud from exposure. Brown Bear delighted, chortled, and Jack picked up the coin, brushed off the mud with his shirt sleeve and handed it to Johnny who studied it intently.
“I’d say from the looks of this, it’s not from our time. It must be hundreds of years old,” Johnny said.
“This means we will be rich,” Jack said.
“We sure will,” Johnny said.
“The three of us rich, how exciting,” Brown Bear said.
“You’re a bear, you don’t get to be rich,” Johnny said maliciously, and Jack laughed.
With those hurtful words, Brown Bear trudged alone into the woods.
Jack and Johnny were so excited about their find, they jumped up and down. With all the excitement, they did not see the white furry rabbit who hopped up and grabbed the coin. Jack and Johnny screamed and ran after the animal, but the rabbit was too quick and jumped into a hole.
Jack peered into the hole with his magnifying glass, but the rabbit and coin were nowhere to be seen, and they sullenly walked home.
Down in the hole the rabbit and Brown Bear enjoyed their newfound richness.
I was burning through
countless magnifying glasses,
deerstalker hats, smoking pipes,
rubber gloves, notepads,
miniature pencils, my memory,
plastic evidence bags, fine toothcombs,
searching for paw prints
the bear was living
on my right shoulder;
making me steal honey,
urging me to show my teeth,
weighing me down.
Do you have bear, the colour of your hair?
When I was about 6 years old, this bear just kind of moved into my life.
Not an imaginary bear,
He was real.
I still have him.
I talk to the bear.
He sort of helps me out with what to do.
So they sent me to see a shrink.
Turns out I’m all good.
(It’s only a bear!)
Mind you, these days I do try to talk quietly to him -
He isn’t that easy to explain,
And it’s easier not to draw attention to him.
I do recommend a bear,
Or whatever creature you happen to get.
I don’t think you get to choose – I’m pretty sure they choose you.
He is pretty useful to have around, as you might imagine.
Apart from the shrink thing,
But that was years ago.
And I got the impression that the shrink had one anyway.
The children left the house early.
The children were looking for the golden maple tree.
They walked down the path towards the river.
Collecting sticks and stones along the way.
They sang rhymes they learned in their cradles,
Filled with words they still could not understand.
Leaves shimmered in the shadows of a tall spruce.
They danced, like hungry butterflies searching for sweet nectar.
The children jumped around the large trunks,
The children were happy, as happy as they could be.
Excited toads before night swim in a lake.
Curious eyes watching beams of phosphorescent light
Cascading down from the canopy, over evergreen viridian bushes,
Before touching the autumn leaves that had fallen,
Painted in shades of yellow, orange and red,
A magical luminous carpet over the verdant forest floor.
The children heard mysterious sounds.
The children suspected it was something hiding.
Beyond coniferous trees,
They discovered a lilac river,
Its banks ornate with wild berries, covered forgotten trails.
They heard the gentle movement of the crystalline waters,
Brushing leaves and insects aside; making its way towards the sea.
Simon’s looking glass was not showing him anything.
‘I think,’ said Tom, ‘that we’ll see it better after dark.’
Simon and Animal laughed. They made noises like the ones the hyena made. Tom had often seen the hyena after dark. It lived behind the plant with the big leaves and had teeth that sparkled in the moonlight.
‘What, the grass bugs, or your hyena?’ said Simon.
‘What do you mean, my hyena?’
‘There’s no hyena.’
Tom sighed. ‘I saw it.’
‘Stop squabbling,’ said Animal. Sometimes Animal was like them. Sometimes she was like their mother. Now she had wiped the smile off her face and was being like their mother.
‘Animal,’ said Tom, ‘you saw the hyena, didn’t you?’
Animal shook her head, nodded, shook her head and nodded again.
Tom and Simon looked at her and then at one another. Sometimes Animal confused them. Now she was walking away, her tail trailing in the way it did when she was sad or disappointed in them.
‘No! Wait! Sorry!’
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