Jane Burn – ‘Bear Bear Bear’

Bear Bear Bear

has built her nest of things. She’s practising being okay
for this Age of Staying In. She’s sluggish with fear –
pulls the room around her tight and grizzles the window,
bumps her snout to leave strangers the shape

of a kiss on the glass. She mutters at the loury sky,
flops the slack gutter of her damp lower lip.
If it wasn’t for the changing light, she might never guess
the time of day. She suspects the clock of telling the hours

in lies. Once, she was solitary by choice. Sometimes
she is busyness itself. Some nights lies awake,
listening to owls break the hearts of their prey.
Bear Bear Bear. If she doesn’t repeat it,

how will she remember her own name?
She’s an odd bit, clutter of bones beneath her slovenly coat,
clumped where she can’t be bothered to brush.
She shores up her weight, sways her wrecked hull

from cupboard to plate. Everything tastes of boredom,
cheap bread and steel from her teeth on the fork.
She looks in the mirror and tongues salt from her dull claws.
Her gaze is petulant with bags. Her dewlaps

beyond control. There are many pictures on the walls.
Her oil-on-canvas roses with its car-boot nicotine smell.
The junk-shop Jesus, turned to face some distant pain.
Boredom makes her do the daftest things.

She has taken his image down, played noughts and crosses
in the dust, stuck on googly eyes, prayed and cursed.
It never made one jot of difference to the endless weeks.
He told her this pandemic is not my fault.

She said do you even like bears?
Through this sad hibernation, she craves the taste of air.
She owns a cottage suite, pelted with crochet throws,
too tiny for her frame. How do? says Bear.
She talks to imaginary friends –
or sits inert for hours, listening to the rain.
One day she’ll shoulder the door of her den.
Walk and not feel the loneliness of the streets,

not feel as if she must make a muted hoard
of her own breath. She’ll smile, peel the mask
from her beaming. She’ll find someone to hug.
She’ll sing the rust from her voice.

Jane Burn

Jane Burn is a Pushcart and Forward Prize nominated, award-winning, working class, bi, neurodivergent poet and illustrator who lives in a wooden off-grid cottage in Northumberland. Her poems are published in many magazines and anthologies and her next collection, Be Feared, will be published in November 2021 by Nine Arches Press. She loves collecting unwanted things, recycling, upcycling, embroidery and many other crafts. She taught herself to play the ukulele and is currently studying for an MA in Writing Poetry at Newcastle University. ‘Bear Bear Bear’ won first prize in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (January 2021) judged by Oz Hardwick.

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