We owe it to each other to tell stories,
as people simply, not as father and daughter.
I tell it to you for the hundredth time:
"There was a little girl, called Goldilocks,
for her hair was long and golden,
and she was walking in the Wood and she saw — "
"— cows." You say it with certainty,
remembering the strayed heifers we saw in the woods
behind the house, last month.
"Well, yes, perhaps she saw cows,
but also she saw a house."
"— a great big house," you tell me.
"No, a little house, all painted, neat and tidy."
"A great big house."
You have the conviction of all two-year-olds.
I wish I had such certitude.
"Ah. Yes. A great big house.
And she went in . . ."
I remember, as I tell it, that the locks
Of Southey's heroine had silvered with age.
The Old Woman and the Three Bears . . .
Perhaps they had been golden once, when she was a child.
And now, we are already up to the porridge,
"And it was too— "
"And it was too— "
And then it was, we chorus, "just right."
The porridge is eaten, the baby's chair is shattered,
Goldilocks goes upstairs, examines beds, and sleeps,
But then the bears return.
Remembering Southey still, I do the voices:
Father Bear's gruff boom scares you, and you delight in it.
When I was a small child and heard the tale,
if I was anyone I was Baby Bear,
my porridge eaten, and my chair destroyed,
my bed inhabited by some strange girl.
You giggle when I do the baby's wail,
"Someone's been eating my prridge, and they've eaten it —"
"All up," you say. A response it is,
Or an amen.
The bears go upstairs hesitantly,
their house now feels desecrated. They realize
what locks are for. They reach the bedroom.
"Someone's been sleeping in my bed."
And here I hesitate, echoes of old jokes,
soft-core cartoons, crude headlines, in my head.
One day your mouth will curl at that line.
A loss of interest, later, innocence.
Innocence; as if it were a commodity.
"And if I could," my father wrote to me,
huge as a bear himself, when I was younger,
"I would dower you with experience, without experience."
and I, in my turn, would pass that on to you.
But we make our own mistakes. We sleep
It is our right. It is our madness and our glory.
The repetition echoes down the years.
When your children grow; when your dark locks begin to silver,
when you are an old woman, alone with your three bears,
what will you see? What stories will you tell?
"And then Goldilicks jumped out of the window and she ran —
Together, now: "All the way home."
And then you say, "Again. Again. Again."
We owe it to each other to tell stories.
These days my sympathy's with Father Bear.
Before I leave my house I lock the door,
and check each bed and chair on my return.
About the Author: Neil Gaiman is the award-winning author of American Gods, Stardust, Neverwhere, Coraline, and other books, as well as short stories, comics, and screenplays. For more information, please visit his website. This poem was inspired by the story Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
Copyright ©1999 by Neil Gaiman. The poem first appeared in Silver Birch, Blood Moon, published by Avon Books. It may not be reproduced in any form without the author’s express written permission.