Six Characters in Search of Something

A friend of mine met the son of a man
who it seems was eaten by a polar bear
in Iceland where the bear had stepped ashore
rafted from Greenland on an ice-floe.
The father of the man who met my friend
saw the bear who’d eat him loitering near
the shore and hurried on and met another man
who was walking the other way towards the bear.
He gave that other man his walking stick
but the bear meanwhile had doubled back
and reappeared on the path ahead
of the man who now was unprotected.
There may be a moral in this story,
for the man, his son, the man he met,
for my friend, for me, or even for the bear,
but if there is it’s better left unsaid.

first published in The Marble Fly (OUP, 1993), © Jamie McKendrick 1993, from Sky Nails, Poems 1979-1997 (Faber, 2000), used by permission of the author.

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