Author: blackbearart

Oh Night Sky

O Night Sky

Under a darkening sky troubles lift as matter lights. I stand stripped, overwhelmed with insignificance Which strangely holds a dangerous power: careless frivolity tending toward self-destruction. But if nothing matters, then surely, in a substantive universe, everything must. And curiously, under that same sky, nihilistic thoughts reverse. And, what responsibility if each action matters; the infinitesimal yielding the biggest bang. So, it is to this infinity, I’ll play my shining best, watchful of each step amid the all and the nothing.

Paper Dolls

trees painting skies walking under the dimming light looking for relief that we can’t find as our faces darken beneath the pines splintered footsteps lost in the dark a trail of wonders that leaves no mark as feet grow weary and the trees grow sparse the trail trails off like a lonely spark paper dolls glide in the forest as forest fires seek to destroy us set by the very ones we love unaware as they burn us up paper dolls alight from within outside we appear un- singed chasing the whispers that fan the flames searching for the love that won’t be claimed skies outlining the clouds a beautiful chaos to backdrop the sound of forest fires being put out the clouds feed on smoky doubts lost hearts calling in the dark on trails that still leave no mark as convincing fires drive them apart paper-thin echoes give away where we are paper dolls glide through the forest as forest fires seek to destroy us set by the very ones we love unaware as …


I’ve felt the sparrow panic in my chest against my sternum – a random flutter, beating its wings. Sometimes, flitting beside my throat quavering, making me feel faint. The doctor says my heart’s missing, forgetting beats, tripping, then catching up but, I know it’s really a sparrow stuck there, trapped terrified, like the one you freed between two panes reaching in with cupped hands, at the cabin, before the day you slipped and the spring freshet took you.

The Writer and the Raven

The Writer and the Raven (June 8, 1876)

She first sees the bird as shadow against shimmer, black against shifting colour, stretching its wings. It makes her think of Liszt in his topcoat and tails, arms raised before the cymbal crash.

It watches her, and in the pinprick light of its avian eye she recognizes transition. She saw the same in Frédéric’s when they said goodbye—“and take that disgusting cigar with you, Aurore,” he had said, to hide emotion—as the skeletal hand that had entranced the world reached feebly for the water glass, or possibly the grave. The cold Paris night was kissed with colour as she stepped outside, a new story dancing at the edges of her mind.

River Riding

In the mid-1980s, after my second year of law school, I was working as a Summer Associate in a law firm, hoping to be offered permanent employment after graduation. As a perk, they took us by luxury bus from San Francisco to the American River for an afternoon of inner tubing, bonding and beer. Instructions were limited: “When you get to the rapids, make sure you go down feet first.” No life vests were provided.

The Blood You Aren't Born With

The Blood You Aren’t Born With

1. I remember the hymns of these words like a late-night infomercial; people telling me to move on. People telling me to get over the fact that I don’t know my dad. It sounded the same each time, coming from different lips. Therapists and lovers. If you have a dysfunctional family, there are other options out there for you. You can gather family in new people. Someone you just met on the street, a man which you, by tender accident, brushed against at a train station. Someone you’ve been sleeping with to fill the void of what feels like a swollen water ballooned chest of loneliness. You can gather new family in a co-worker, asking her how her weekend was like an inflamed mother would. Or a teacher, imagining him as your father, teaching you what to do and what not to do. Letting your heart liquefy when he tells you you’re doing an exquisite job. There are other options if you aren’t close with your relatives. If you’ve never met your father. If you …

Dead People I have Known

Dead People I have Known

Ean Hay—December 23, 1925 – May 26, 1977 They appeared quite suddenly in our midst. On my island, where everyone knew everyone else, these newcomers stood out like papayas in a basket of apples. Each one of them: Ean and Mary, and the kids Lauren, Toby and Colin, wore one of Mary’s handspun hand knitted and hand dyed sweaters, each one with a row or two of diamonds across the front. They were Mary’s signature, those diamonds. She had marked her family with roads of diamonds, as if she might lose them without a map. When I came to know Ean better, so much better, I spent many hours gazing at the diamonds on his sweaters, when I was too embarrassed by his attention or too shy to look into his sharp blue intelligent eyes that seemed to read me so thoroughly. The pungent scent of the wool was always strongest after we had walked together, usually up to my house from the hall, through the west coast winter drizzle. Ean was a music man …



Caterpillars come in mid-September. Green-brown backs sectioned off with black rings around their torsos. White fuzz jutting out in erratic tufts, like madmen. They cover our porch, writhing about on the wooden planks, piling onto the welcome mat, inching towards the front door. Impatient guests. Careless, we squish them between our toes like grapes. First, we feel the prickle of the hairs, then the gumminess of their spineless bodies as we press down, waiting for the hesitation, the pause, the apex of the worm’s life, and then the release, a yellow-green bile oozing out of their ends, which sticks in the space between our toes. Many find refuge on our front door and survive our reckless sortie. Father welcomes them inside. Tradition: Father opens the door and leaves it to gently swing in the autumn gusts until the worms have all made their trek inside. He lures them in with piles of newspapers and cases of our mother’s decaying books, nesting grounds and plant matter for the selfish worms. They spin their webs about the …

La Cumparsita

She wished that he would stop trying to give her things. He was shuffling through his unpacked possessions, producing items as makeshift gifts. She assured him that she did not want his half-used bottle of deodorant, nor did she want his copy of “The Communist Manifesto”. Most of the items were presented as a joke, but others were objects she knew he held dear. He loved the scarf that he had just tossed over her neck. Swirls of silver and moonbeam blue. A pashmina that he wore only with the navy overcoat. The coat that would surely become the staple of his wardrobe up north. She anchored her gaze onto the hardwood floors, focusing on the slants of light striking the hall flooding from his bedroom. It was an excellent way of dodging the tension she felt rise in her chest when she made eye contact with him. Pulling the fabric from her neck, she chucked it at him and the fine threads clung to his right shoulder blade with autumn static. She focused back …

ascending rearward

Ascending Rearward

Although it was our first ascent we chose the route of most resistance Beneath brown cardboard doors you spoke of flowing rearward From far below the surface these things reflected differently and to you our altitude meant little I think you felt the marching feet of wasps and the mounting weight of smaller stones when I poured you out beneath the spruce

Black Bear Review

What’s in a name?

One of the best parts about starting a literary magazine is figuring out what to call it. What’s in a name? For some, it’s a label, an identity, a compass of sorts. For others, it’s arbitrary, or an expectation to subvert. For us, it was a way to think about the kind of literary work we wanted to see on these pages. We chose the Black Bear Review because we want the writers in this issue to entice you, show you their claws, leave their mark. We thought a lot about bears as we put together this issue, especially Kootenay bears. They’re beautiful and we love them. But they’re also a nuisance. They drag trash all over our lawns and eat our compost. They’re persistent, ubiquitous, they make the local news again and again. They block highways, swim in rivers, frolic at our favourite beaches, add excitement to our picnics. Even if we sometimes think they’re predictable, they’re anything but. Neither are these writers. The poems, essays and stories in this issue will take you …