• Vol. 08
  • Chapter 06
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Jeremy, Philip and Bear

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 >
1

When We Were Kids

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.

2

Jungle Sentence

"Far be it from me to interrupt you from wielding your handsome new magnifying glass in, I assume, the pursuit of analysing the fine texture of the red scarf that my mother insisted I put on this morning despite my repeatedly assuring her that wearing it would be entirely inappropriate as my pal Alfie and I were going for an expedition in the jungle, BUT, unless I am much mistaken, worryingly close behind us is lurking an impressive example of the rare species of the Grinning Yet Deadly Orange Hippobear which suggests to me that we would be well-advised to GET THE HELL OUTTA HERE SHARPISH!"
3

It’s all there… where?

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.

4

if you go down to the woods

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

5

A Curation Myth

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'.

6

THE BARELY-THERE BEAR

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 >

7

Everything Is Alive

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.

8

Wednesdays

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
on Wednesdays,
but today could be different.

Tommy pulled out his magnifying glass.
It was always with him.
He inspected the note, the grass,
his shoelaces.
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 >

9

Bear, Who art Thou?

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!

10

Where Bears Go To Get Some Peace

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 >
11

Into the Woods

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.

12

Dear child

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

13

It’s Behind You

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.

14

out there

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

15

Wildlife Detectives

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
ever deeper
into the western woods.

We move ever onwards—
further westwards—
never thinking
for a moment
that the brown bear
is right there behind us.

16

What is it?

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

17

Monkey Bars

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.

18

Strength in Variation

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.

19

Delizioso

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 >
20

SPELLBOUND

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.

21

Discovery

Discovery
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
Your midst
Tagging along the wisdoms of the dark
Woods

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
First
Much, much before us;
To find hints and glimpses of the commons
Read more >

22

Self-Control

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”

23

Family Reunion

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.

24

Great Gordon

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.
Play reality.
Take cover Great Gordon!

25

Focus

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.

I'm clueless,
none-the-wiser,
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,
misunderstood,
around my blistering spotlight.
They love it.
Maybe that is the joke.

26

Lost things and Mother

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.

27

Bear

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

28

Allure

                                              Detail-sprouter.
                               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.
                                                        But I
                                                        can’t
                                                        won’t
                                                         look
                                                         back.
                                                        These
                                                         eyes
                                                         are
                                                         just
                                                         for
                                                         you.

29

teehee

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

30

Magnified

Sunlight glints,
winking a warning
as curious, human hands
reach ever closer,
staring harder
for longer.

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,
to own.

31

Play Pattercake

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.

32

One Day

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.

33

GRUFF GRRR GRRR-RUFF

Oh, m’ tail ‘n whiskers what’s this UFF UFF new toy fun throw fetch fetch fetch
What is it?
Dunno. Toy?
Looks like it.
Gimme gimme gimme
Shudup Igor. SIT.
Huh hu huh wan’ it need it love it
SIT
Why d’yu bring ‘im?
Wasn’t allowed out without ‘im.
Pleeese pleeese
Stop whinin.’
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 …
Umph?
I’m sure ‘e understands evry word. ‘es not stupid.
Love you love you gimme gimme you taste nice
Ugh. Dribble!
RAH! RAH! RAH!
Ignore ‘im.
Trying to. Here. Look through it. What d’ya see?
Mmmm. Y’right. There’s thin’s movin’ … swimmin.’
Read more >

34

Into The Wilderness

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 >
35

Heredity

The resemblance was uncanny
the set of the mouth
iron-railed teeth
ready to bite
rip and tear at life
fight to the last

The shadow wolf snarled
hungry
urged his cub
to adulthood
where they could
devour the world
together

All it would take
would be a whisper
to set the fires burning

36

Rob turns red

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 >
37

Boris

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?

38

No Ordinary Creature

“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 >
39

Beast Boy Mystery

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

40

His Terrible Smile

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

41

The Magnifying Glass

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.

42

Food Insecurity

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 >

43

In the Hierarchy of Things

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.

44

A Sigh For Days Gone By

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

45

An Unexpected Encounter

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

Read more >
46

Food Pyramid

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
our debts

We are all equal
in the eyes of
Bear

Bear: ROAR!
Boy: Watch this
Ghost: oooooh
Bear: ROAR!!
Boy: Get out of the way,
you are blocking the sun
and I want to roast
these ants
Ghost: I am incorporeal
you idiot
Bear: ROAR!!!
Boy: Your scarf isn't
Ghost: Oh shut up

47

We All Need a Red Bear

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!

Read more >
48

A yellow wormy squirmy spotty little bug

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 >

49

Something we never noticed before

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

50

I Think There’s a Bear in These Woods

“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 >

51

Hunt

"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!”

52

Sonny Smiles

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.

53

A revolting rhyme

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.

54

Beware the Bear

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

Read more >
55