Bear on a Barstool
A grizzly is sitting in a spotlight,
looking at something that is missing.
He is slumped, a sack of black fur,
his long snouted black-nosed face gazing
at the empty bar stool to his left.
The weight of the universe is on his shoulders,
shimming down through his fur black torso
to the base of his spine,
his tailbone pressed against the wooden seat,
high on its four thin cross-linked legs.
It is not clear whether this is a bar,
this Hopper-like pen and inked scene.
It really doesn’t matter –
just two bar stools, one bear, a spotlight.
It could be a stage, and he is waiting
for someone to make an entrance.
Whatever, this bear is looking for someone –
at someone – who isn’t there,
this precarious bear.
The white space above the empty stool
is the yin to his yang,
the anti-matter of black.
He could move to that stool
like a missing piece of a jigsaw,
but that would leave a void where he is right now.
There is no practical solution to this problem,
unless the artist can help him.
Groundhogs and a Globe
Gary is sitting on the North Pole,
his front paws neatly positioned,
side by side, just to the west of Ireland.
He is looking majestic, nose in the air.
Below him Graham is sitting tall,
short-tailed, his snout against the equator.
He appears to be scrutinising Côte d’Ivoire.
Occasionally he looks up at Gary.
Gary is sniffing the air.
Graham wants to be up there too
but there is no room,
and the sides of the globe are high and smooth.
Graham makes a salad of dandelion,
places the plate on the desk,
next to the base of the globe.
Gary sniffles, slithers, slips,
lands on the desk,
gnashes the greens
with his ivory teeth;
and while he is eating,
Graham starts to climb,
his long claws rasping and sliding.
The globe begins to spin,
faster and faster, as he scrambles,
jumping the arm on each pass,
blue and land whirling to white.
All Gary hears is a high-pitched whistle –
Ibis with an Inkwell
My dear Itsuhiko, –
Unless anything happens to change my plans,
I propose to fly to Japan tomorrow.
It has been a long time since
we met in Uttar Pradesh,
all those summers ago.
I remember the day that
you built me a nest in a saltwater marsh,
a solid construction of carefully chosen sticks,
lined with silvergrass and silken threads;
how we nuzzled together at night.
A lot has happened since then.
I settled down with an antiquarian,
surrounded by relics and rare books,
including (you may be interested)
Browning’s own copy of Pauline (Saunders and Ottley, 1833).
My antiquarian, himself an antique,
sadly passed away last winter.
I put the collection on eBay,
got enough to pay for a pond of my own
in its own private wood.
Life’s been good but, my dear,
I always wondered what would have happened
if the monsoon had not come that day,
if you and I had not been washed away.
My head is black from drinking the ink;
I cry black tears when I write.
I hope that you can read this;
I hope that you are there.
Until tomorrow, my dear Itsuhiko
Kite and a Kite
Bridle and tail,
lift and drag;
she is tethered
by an invisible hand.
He is entranced
by her abstraction,
of her form.
She has his colours,
yet is translucent;
the sunlight shines
through her wings.
He flies below her,
is solid between her
and the Earth.
He watches her soar and glide,
shifts in her ghostly shadow:
the doubles and seconds
of real things.
Newt on a novel
You know, this book is really not that good.
It is not about l’amour du triton,
affairs of the salamander,
the rapture of the fast-flowing stream.
It is not about how newts can regenerate
even tears of the heart.
It is not about exothermic love,
or the bed of a river,
the deep blue ocean,
where newts are at one with each other.
It is about a Kaiser Mountain Newt held captive,
fed on blackworms, bloodworms,
second instar banded crickets;
his biography, from hatchling to eft;
how he became a preacher of water;
how the water vanished into the sky.
The pages of the book are soaked, curling.
Anne Osbourn: "I am a plant scientist based in Norwich. I started writing poetry in 2004 when on sabbatical in the School of Literature and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia as a National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts Dream Time Fellow. My poems have been published in poetry magazines and international science journals. My first poetry book Mock Orange (SPM Publications) was a winner in the 2018 Sentinel Poetry Book Competition. I am also the founder of the Science, Art and Writing Trust (www.sawtrust.org), an educational charity that uses science as a meeting place for interdisciplinary adventures.
Kirsten Bomblies: "I am a professor in genetics and evolutionary plant biology based at the Swiss Federal Technical University (ETH) in Zürich Switzerland. I have been drawing my whole life. 1992-1996 I worked part time as an illustrator in palaeobotany and palaeontology to pay the bills while at university; this started my love affair with ink illustration. My fascination for combining human-associated objects with animals began fairly recently – while I lived in Norwich five years ago; the Alliterative Animal Alphabet followed as a two-year project, finished in 2020. Art is where I find respite from an intense daily life, which is why I generally reserve it as a hobby – to protect my love for it. "
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