A White Bear On the Way Home

Note: Ironic processing is the psychological process whereby an individual’s deliberate attempts to the purpose of avoiding certain thoughts (thought suppression) render those thoughts more accessible. A classic example is Fyodor Dostoevsky‘s quote from Winter notes on summer impressions: “Try to pose for yourself this task: not to think of a polar bear, and you will see that the cursed thing will come to mind every minute.”

A  White Bear on the Way Home…


Sleep enticed him like a siren.


Upon the motorway, the smudge of movement folded car into car into car into car,

The calling of the calling, the perpetual cry for home.

The percussion of pollution beat an ugly tattoo upon the twinkling night,

As money-smiths hammered upon the adamantine anvil of necessity.

The rape fields glowered in the dimming light, backlit by a child’s sunset.


He was praying to a god he didn’t believe in,

Praying that this would be the last time he would have to enter this mordant tunnel of atonement.

Praying this would be the last time boredom and concentration would fight for his consciousness as the endless black ribbon unfolded the future.


The dark silhouette of a hawk hovered over the broken fence where the motorway’s domain ended,

Ascending and descending as if controlled by an alcoholic puppeteer.

He tried to distract himself with thoughts of the anonymous avian predator,

And its intended prey.

A prey oblivious to the proximity of death.

Inevitably, the thought train became derailed, dismembered and disfigured,

It entered a disused siding in his mind,

A synaptic depository for the discomfort of the past,

There it remained, primed and waiting:

Like the hawk.


His knuckles betrayed the inner tension,

Before the dread became manifest,

Before promise turned to threat,

As wedding vows turn into solicitors letters.

The veins in his hands were barely, but translucently visible,

like a dead soldiers tattoos.

He needed a mental distraction.


Soon enough, resentment chased the anger, like a terrier the rat.

Resentment at the river of desire he was born into.


Thrown into.

Thrown into a potential current without any,

No pools of sweet languor to arrest the soul.

Want, desire, need,

The three sentinels that stand at the gates of greed, you cannot leave,

Who will bay like cornered jackals till the stars melt and fade.

Hidden in the unconscious,

Placed there, with stealth,

When the dark mask of childhood was cover for a legion  deceptions.

The slow death of determination by a thousand tiny, insatiable, desires.


Often imitated, never bettered, the ultimate antidote to chaos.


Feed desire: starve chaos.

Without desire we are nothing.


The sour taste of despair welled and repelled, like an orphan’s tears.

The white knuckles still griped the wheel,

Of the car,

On the motorway,

There is no escape,

There is no hiding place.

No Hiding Place, the police drama appeared from the mists of childhood

His guard dropped, the warm glow of nostalgia relaxed him:

The hawk struck.


With a depressing predictability the dismembered thought reappeared and washed him back through time, till he lay beached in a supermarket.


He was shopping in the early nineteen eighties.

The floor of the shop was covered in light brownstone tiles – cold and uninviting, like a dungeon floor.

He was there because they sold cheap larger, in light green cans,

Kestrel larger, that, when decanted, looked like a cocktail whose only two components were piss and lemonade.

No matter  – it was all he could afford,

It didn’t matter that the place made Kwiksave look like Harrods. 

Besides, they sold collar bacon

Cheap salty flesh, that fulfilled its epicurean purpose with as much success as the lemony-piss larger.

When the weekly shopping budget was eleven pounds; 

These unimportant details, powerless to arrest the thought express that was implacably heading towards its usual destination,

He was powerless to halt it.

Perhaps this memory just had to have an occasional outing,

Like some aging aunt with a faint aroma of fresh lavender and stale biscuits.


He was certain the memory took some small malevolent glee in generating the tiny internal horror that instinctively,

He knew,

Was seconds away. 

It was a futile exercise, (or was it an exercise in futility?)

Trying to rein in this feral memory.

They (his wife had joined him, it was her memory too he supposed) had gone through the checkout now,

Standing in a place that irony always reminds him, is now a Laura Ashley,

Soft and expensive, no longer hard and cheap.


The most precious thing he had ever known was standing up in her pushchair, Wanting to be a part, not apart.

She was curious about the tactile potential that the carrier bags that lay scattered over the surface of the steel packing area would have,

Complicated calculations that allows a human to maintain gravity defying balance at times,

Were not tattooed upon her tiny infant mind, not fully, not yet.

The movement was beyond the shutter speed of memory,

Recall presented it as white and pink flash,

No more detail, no less.

It was the noise that endured:

The impact of a newly covered skull on brown baked-hard tile,

Sickenely loud, as if a partially defrosted chicken had just fallen out of the sky and landed next to him.

Then the wail,

A mushroom cloud of noise rose forth.

That pink happy face now a damson contortion of tears, noise and snot.

A pack of strangers rounded on them,

Old whale-tailed women,

Ones who exude a sympathy that is always accompanied by latent disapproval, Like a conjoined twin.


His wife, now grievously distraught as though she had just discovered her entire family slaughtered,

Tightly held the damson, distraught infant,

Who so desperately wanted to return to the womb,

Where the world couldn’t harm her,









2 thoughts on “A White Bear On the Way Home

  1. richardrudin

    Love (amongst many other things) the ‘latent disapproval’. Can just picture the scene. Why is the world full of people who seem to feel better only when they make someone else feel worse? I had similar experience when my in-laws got burgled. Next door neighbour, oh, full of sympathy (of course) but smugly saying all the things they should have done to prevent this. One of the few times I’ve used the line: “Sorry, is this supposed to be helping?” Twat!

    1. strummerman Post author

      Too kind as ever Richard, and thanks to you for originally pointing out it would work in stanzas. As for your neighbour, this quote of Art’s sprang to mind: “the most effective consolation in every misfortune and affliction is to observe others who are more unfortunate than we.”
      Dug the poem out show someone and thought at least it will get Kafka of the front page!


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