friday feast: a bear, a phone booth, and lots of irony

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
John Lennon


The other day I was looking for a poem about breakfast. Anything would do — pancakes, waffles, toast, eggs, bacon, or muffins.

Instead, I came across this quirky poem, “The Avalanche Club,” by Heather Christle. It made me giggle, but it also had the “Aha!” effect.

The poem is all about looking for one thing, in order to accidentally discover something else. How could I resist lines like these:

I complained to my friends.
I said I am looking for bears
and I am finding them everywhere
but I am not finding, for example,
a town in Tennessee
populated entirely by historians
who refute the Persian Wars.

Aha! You may know I have also spent a fair amount of time looking for bears.


And then I read this:

Maybe you have a similar problem.
Maybe for you it’s phone booths
which you chose for their disappearance
and their mostly romantic history.
(entire poem is here.)

My god. This poet is reading my mail! For me, it’s bears and phone booths! (Sometimes, it’s even a bear inside my phone booth!) Double Aha.

So now, I’m all, “I’ve been searching for the wrong thing my whole life!” “I’m not seeing the forest for the trees!”

Of course I also thought about writing:

watch the tunnel vision
don’t overthink
there are many ways of seeing
the best ideas come when you’re not looking
it’s right in front of you, aka, the answer is in the manuscript
is everyone obsessive?

And so, I looked for breakfast and discovered bears.

Heather Christle looked for bears and found a way to make us re-examine our experience and perspective.

Of course, you may accidentally take away something entirely different from this poem.

What are your sights set on?

Look out!

Today’s Poetry Friday Roundup is at Biblio File.

Edited to add: Liz Scanlon came up with the perfect song for this post — “Bears,” written by Steve Fromholz. It is performed with perfection by Lyle Lovett on this video. The lyrics are in the comments. Thanks, Liz!

21 thoughts on “friday feast: a bear, a phone booth, and lots of irony

    Who wants a pancake, Sweet and piping hot? Good little Grace looks up and says, “I’ll take the one on top.”
    Who else wants a pancake, Fresh off the griddle? Terrible Teresa smiles and says, “I’ll take the one in the middle.”

    —Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends
    On an unrelated note, I have a question about Dumpling Soup (which both my daughters enjoyed, btw) – is it set during the Western new year, or the Asian new year?


  2. DS is based on my own family’s celebration — Western new year.
    Love the pancake quote — I was thinking of using the exact one in a post. Great minds think alike :)!


  3. “watch the tunnel vision
    don’t overthink
    there are many ways of seeing
    the best ideas come when you’re not looking”
    Yes! Thanks for this post, and for introducing me to a new poet.


  4. Breakfast, Anyone? Or How about Bears???
    Elaine M.
    I like your poetry selection for this week.
    Here are a couple of children’s poetry books where you can find some breakfast poems:
    YUMMY: EATING THROUGH THE DAY, selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, includes the following poems:
    – “Morning Smells”
    – “Ode to a Cereal Box”
    – “O! Orange.”
    WHAT’S ON THE MENU, selected by Bobbye Goldstein, includes the following poems:
    – “From Sleepyhead to Breakfast Spread”
    – “Breakfast Talk”
    – “The Toaster”
    – John Ciardi’s “Mummy Slept Late and Daddy Fixed Breakfast”
    Have a great weekend. BTW, I printed off a copy of your sow’s ear baked apple pancake recently. I hope to cook one up this fall. It sounds divine!


  5. TadMack says: 🙂
    I was looking for pancakes, then bears, then phone booths… and I came away with cows. What a CUTE udder on the stool!!!!
    Writers: SO random.


  6. This is so right for today. I find myself really wanting two different things. They’re not at all in conflict; I could get both and be very happy, but I feel like I’m splitting my “wishing factor” in half and weakening the power by not focusing on just one.


  7. OK, Jama. Do you know that Lyle Lovett song about Bears??? It needs to part of this post!!!
    Some folks say there ain’t no bears in arkansas
    Some folks never seen a bear at all
    Some folks say that bears go around eating babies raw
    Some folks got a bear across the hall
    Some folks say that bears go around smelling bad
    Others say that a bear is honey sweet
    Some folks say this bear’s the best I ever had
    Some folks got a bear beneath their feet
    Some folks drive the bears out of the wilderness
    Some to see a bear would pay a fee
    Me I just bear up to my bewildered best
    And some folks even see the bear in me
    So meet a bear and take him out to lunch with you
    And even though your friends may stop and stare
    Just remember that’s a bear there in the bunch with you
    And they just don’t come no better than a bear


  8. Re: Breakfast, Anyone? Or How about Bears???
    Thank you SO much, Elaine!! I’m going to look for those books right away.
    Hope you enjoy the baked apple pancake. It’s yummy!


  9. Very interesting. Do you think women are better than men at dual focussing, as they are at multi-tasking? I think part of women’s intuition is a highly tuned peripheral vision, a wide net of observation and sensitivity happening on so many levels all the time. Part of our job as writers seems to be to make meaningful connections between unlikely elements.


  10. OMG!! I love this song (new to me). You’re right, it’s absolutely PERFECT for today’s post. I’m so relieved I’m not the only one with a bear beneath my feet 🙂 . . .


  11. I think we’re required to do more of it, so maybe are better. But that might just be a bit of a tired whine! I do think the connections and layers are what make the writing better. Side track: We’ve been watching old episodes of Northern Exposure, and one of my favorite things about that show is how the writers constantly paired different characters in different episodes–really gets across how people have multiple aspects of personality that come out, depending on whom they’re with. Now let’s see if I can get that into my revision!
    And, natch, the biggest thing I really wanted just became a wish for next week, so now I can focus my power on the smaller, that’s still today. Life giving me a gift? 🙂


  12. Liz! I started to comment here early this morning, thought of this SAME bear song…and left to find it. But for some dang reason, I thought it was John Prine and came up empty-handed. Thank you for jolting my memory! My husband used to play this for the kids when they were little to make them laugh. (I guess the “babies raw” bit didn’t phase them.)
    Anyway, I LOVE Jama’s find in this poem, and I do love Lyle, too. 🙂


  13. Yes, it’s really my phone booth, an English phone booth replica in teak. It was the first piece of “furniture” I acquired for our living room when we moved into our new house. Of course, the whole room had to be decorated around it. The phone works and takes quarters! I encourage guests to use the payphone so I can make extra pocket money :).


  14. Speaking of looking for bears, I finally have from the library Kevin Henkes’ Old Bear.
    Ah, sublime. As you know…!


  15. perfect!
    I absolutely LOVE this poem! I think I’ve been looking for it all my life. Thanks, Jama, for finding it for me.
    ~eisha (7-Imp)


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