Peter Christensen


    Biographical information

  1. Annie
  2. Happy Eggs
  3. Knowing Is Human not of Rivers
  4. These two Friends
  5. Through these Mountains
  6. We Who Hunted; I. In this Little Valley
  7. We Who Hunted; II. Keep out
  8. We Who Hunted; III. They Say
  9. We Who Hunted; IV. We Who Hunted

    Biographical information
      Name: Peter Christensen
      Place of birth: Canada

      Through these Mountains
        Through these mountains and valleys
        Is the way back to you
        Back to the struggle
        To make what we have work
        It is clear
        That you are worried
        That our love
        Is ending
        As you leave
        You say
        I love you
        But it is a question
        As much as a statement
        So sharp
        And accurate
        That a slice of doubt
        Is silently known
        As soon as the words are
        Before you leave
        You instruct Anna
        To take a picture
        Of us
        In front of the crumbling Mexican archway
        Leading to the rambling old house
        Amid the orchards
        Above the lake
        Where I am writing
        Where I face my demons and demagogues
        Desire reason and uncertainty
        The picture is evidence
        That we were here together
        This too is our house
        You must go now
        To work
        For the corporate giants
        The ones who have taken
        So much of our lives
        Given us money
        As you leave I see fear in your eyes
        Uncertainty in your smile
        I do not say
        Don't worry
        For I am caught up
        In these spring orchards
        Caught up
        In all this pruning back of life
        The way back to you
        Is through the high mountains
        There are passes rock falls
        Torrents and dark valleys
        But I know the road eventually
        Becomes singular
        Reason virtue and passion
        Join together
        Lead to the doorway
        Into our small house
        High in the mountains.

      These two Friends
        (For Glen and Jim).
        These two friends I know
        Are on the radio
        Speaking poems of fish and friendship
        Their gentle voices swimming
        The dark shoals of Jan Lake
        It is as if
        I am with them
        Standing by the fire Jim has built
        Against the cold offshore wind
        Its warmth crackles around our ankles
        Reaches up toward our outstretched hands
        And pulls us down leaning back
        We open our coats to
        The slow heat of confession
        I admit
        I am unruly and isolated
        Too quick to argue
        That contradictions and compromise
        Lead to imperfect people acting
        Upon a perfect world
        I too have guarded the bitter flames
        Of envy and refusal
        Against the winds of forgiveness
        History wove traps
        My heart could not escape
        I am ashamed to have wept
        The thick and bloody tears of anger
        O soft tongued friends
        These confessions are of the fire
        And I beg you to stop my mouth
        With gentle rags and bind my thoughts
        Before they become maudlin
        Then soft as water speak your poems
        Your lapping admonitions
        For only then will fish and friendship
        Calm this shrinking vessel
        Where I hoard your counsel.

        While riding the chair lift with Annie
        she asked me
        what are you gonna do
        I said
        live off my wife
        she is supporting me at a lifestyle
        to which I would like to become accustomed
        Annie became silent
        To ski you must
        become one with the fall line
        this is the zen
        but Annie could not forget the pain
        she brought with her to the mountain
        and she carved my comment
        close to her heart
        At the end of the day
        I brought the car around
        she threw her skis into the trunk
        threw her poles at the back of my seat
        got in to the back of the car
        and slammed the door
        I asked
        if she had a problem
        she huffed like an angry bear
        and said
        it's called teamwork
        I don't know what you would do without Yvonne
        This caused me to think
        she believed I was useless and dependent
        and I admit my anger got the better of me
        Annie I suspect you are commenting
        on something that is none of your goddamn business
        Well that kind of broke the ice
        later we said we were sorry
        But you see how just one little story
        can turn the heart
        harden the arteries
        tighten the lips
        just one phrase
        can twist the knife.

      Knowing Is Human not of Rivers
        The river does not care
        what is put on it
        does not see or hear
        or feel tired or needed
        does not go to work
        need money or care
        if the job was bid
        too low or too high
        The river does not feel
        cold or pain or
        broken in spirit
        make mortgage payments
        enjoy fine wines,
        excess, desire, passion,
        cool thoughts,
        A river is dammed
        its energy seized
        channeled into wires
        it does not feel sorrow
        The river does not care
        if we live or die of cancer
        or stroke or lung disease
        are fit or mentally ill
        The river does not care
        if we sewer it,
        smelter slag its gravel beds,
        dump salt, garbage, pulp effluent, 24D or rain
        it flows or doesn¹t flow
        clear dirty polluted or stinking
        it's all the same to the river
        The river is not subtle or riproaring
        or easy or difficult to run
        the fishing is neither good nor bad
        the river has no memory
        no conscience no history
        fought no wars lost no loved ones
        the river knows nothing
        knowing is human, not of rivers.

      We Who Hunted; I. In this Little Valley
        In this little valley
        we are in a way
        all married to each other
        no one is anonymous
        crimes of passion
        mistaken identities
        infractions of the wildlife act
        are remembered and tallied in
        the grand community ledger
        When change threatens as change always does
        some are filled with envy
        others hate
        The new arrivals all believe
        they have 'discovered' this belated wilderness
        where we have struggled
        lived simply and fairly well
        you can tell the renters from the owners
        the first thing the buyers do
        is nail up blood red no trespassing
        signs to the trees and then
        they build fences where no need exists
        They have a need to defend territory
        against others who seek the same solace
        they have found and
        like all colonizers once the fort is built
        they become missionaries
        act as if we who have lived here so long
        are children
        Does this story sound familiar?
        the oldest profession is colonization
        I have become indifferent to these people
        at times I resist or consider them fools
        but I know there will
        always be more
        I will either learn to live with them or
        go elsewhere.

      We Who Hunted; 2. Keep out
        The little valley is filling up
        with people who just got here
        and want to keep others out
        The more recent the arrivals
        the more vocal they are
        about keeping others out
        They build barbed wire fences
        where I used to walk or ride
        Sometimes the children of the valley
        are sent away to urban schools
        and when they return
        they also put up signs
        Strictly No Trespassing
        And we who live here
        wonder what they learned
        about themselves that
        they must now keep all others out.

      We Who Hunted; 3. They Say
        They say
        that killing animals is wrong
        unless sanctified by aboriginal claim
        or the process of feedlots and abattoirs
        They say
        they have discovered The Valley
        will save us from ourselves
        they loudly lament the loss of the high country
        while sinking basements and roads
        into the winter range
        At meetings
        shake and furrow their brow
        claim and profane their care
        for the environment
        seed hatred among us
        quote Suzuki
        They say
        we should make doors and window frames
        from what is left of the forests
        get our meat at the fast food outlets
        sit in our cars and eat
        They will show us
        how to live on the land
        And like the industrialist's
        their aggressive offspring
        tear the fragile hills of the winter range
        open to the weather with bikes and
        All Terrain Vehicles.

      We Who Hunted; 4. We Who Hunted
        They say
        we who hunted the bear elk and deer
        must not hunt
        because a percentage of householders
        from town feel bad
        about us killing animals
        They say
        the bear has an inherent right to live
        that the bear is sacred
        the bear is a renewable resource
        the bear is an indicator species
        They say
        that the killing of bears is wrong
        unless by the Conservation Officers of the Queen
        in the name of
        achieving the optimum sustainable population
        or getting rid of garbage bears
        or killing bears that are a nuisance
        or have killed humans
        And so that no one will profit
        from this killing
        like government surplus
        the bear's body must go in the dump
        but we who live on the land
        know the bear is many things
        and we know
        we too are animals.

      Happy Eggs
        I drove down to Keladen
        to buy imperfect eggs
        that must have come from
        imperfect chickens
        Free Range it said on the carton
        You may ask why
        I would go to so much trouble
        to buy imperfect eggs
        when next door the Safeway beckoned
        Perhaps I needed
        some grit in my life or
        maybe as I struggle each day to
        work off my after forty paunch
        I could not bear to
        shop in a store called Overwieghtea
        And while those concerns were true
        a more troubling question pecked at my heart
        indeed an existential question
        was scratching at my brain
        you see I did not understand
        why God had not made all eggs
        perfect in the first place
        if that was
        where we were headed anyway?
        Could it be God made imperfect eggs
        to give humankind something to do
        after all with free range I mean free will
        humans would need something to do
        and having been given dominion
        over the earth and over all the things that grow and crawl
        well maybe
        making perfect eggs would be
        just the thing to keep us busy
        I was fenced in by these fowl questions
        I drove my Keladen eggs home
        and carefully set them on the table
        As if reaching under a setting hen
        I cautiously lifted the lid on the carton
        and beheld a dozen different eggs
        indeed there was a delirium of differences
        some short some with small protrusions on their tips
        round big ones next to small ones some tall and narrow
        an unsorted bunch if ever there was
        Being a purveyor of metaphors
        I was quick to recognize
        that in this little paper carton world
        multiculturalism although not official was
        not a problem each egg was stable
        I opened a second carton
        and apoplectically viewed
        a rather small blue oblong egg
        nesting in the corner pocket among
        eleven brown ones
        In light of such anomaly
        I felt sure that I would solve
        this mystery of differences
        but after a time
        the problem remained ingrained
        the answer had flown the coop
        With one hope of descrambling this conundrum
        I glumly walked to the Safeway store
        and bought a carton of perfect eggs which
        strangely cost less per dozen
        than the imperfect ones
        I took them home and
        set the Safeway carton beside the others
        I peeped in and
        restless as a rooster
        stared at the identical unfertilized twelvelets
        Slowly but surely a graceful comprehension nestled in:
        the perfect Safeway eggs
        were really the imperfect ones
        for in selecting for perfect eggs
        of perfect size and perfect shape
        and perfect colour made by perfect chickens
        these eggs, and chickens that produced them
        were made unhappy and vulnerable
        for I understood that the slightest change of weather or food
        wreaked havoc in the wired hen house and
        all manner of antibodies are needed
        to keep perfect chickens eating as they
        perch precariously on rubbery legs there being
        little difference between bone or gristle
        And then there are esthetic questions while
        one perfect egg seems a thing of beauty
        twelve identical perfect eggs are plain
        and easy to take for granted
        as if they have no story and come from nowhere
        on the other hand
        the free range eggs seem happy
        even though their fate is sealed
        unlike the perfect eggs they are content
        and I speculate that the uncadged
        unculled unregualated chickens
        who roam the range and produce these eggs
        are happy as well,
        that is a far as I can discern
        what is happiness to chickens
        So could it be
        that happiness depends on differences
        that by being different we have
        the greatest chance for freedom
        for survival
        could it be that God does not know
        where we are headed
        that we are free to range
        I drove down to Keladen
        to buy some perfect eggs.