'The Bearhug'


Nick Laird was born in Cookstown, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland who lives in London with his wife, fellow author Zadie Smith. A former lawyer, Laird wrote the novel Utterly Monkey. This selection is from his poetic debut, To a Fault.

To mark National Poetry Month, NPR.org is featuring a series of newly published works selected by the Academy of American Poets. Learn more about this and other titles at the academy's New Spring Books list.

The Bearhug

Nick Laird

It's not as if I'm intending on spending the rest of my life

doing this:

besuited, rebooted, filing to work, this poem a fishbone in

my briefcase.

The scaffolding clinging St Paul's is less urban ivy than

skin, peeling off.


A singular sprinkler shaking his head spits at the newsprint

of birds***.

It's going unread: Gooseberry Poptarts, stale wheaten

bread, Nutella and toothpaste.

An open-armed crane turns to embrace the aeroplanes

passing above.


I hadn't the foggiest notion. Imagine: me, munching

cardboard and rubbish,

but that's just what they meant when they said, Come in,

you're dead-beat,

take the weight off your paws, you're a big weary grizzly

with a hook through his mouth,


here, have some of this love.


"The Bearhug", from To a Fault by Nick Laird. Copyright © 2006 by Nick Laird. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

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