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Edmonton, Alberta
About Peter Gilchrist




The Bullrider

"A twisting bull can change the way you measure time.
The seconds stall mid-air.  A massive head comes back,
and cracks your skull.   The light explodes in shards.  You mime
control, each muscle clenched against the next attack.

It comes a fraction sooner than you think it will.
Arrays of pain refract through prisms up your spine.
His head goes down, he spins, and crimson droplets spill
across your straining arm.  A warm and salted wine

decants between your shattered teeth and leaks from lips
pursed tight against the fear careening madly 'round
the fenced-off ring inside your mind.  Awareness slips
away and all you see is sky and rushing ground.

And then the blackness comes."  He paused, his gun-grey eyes
drilled through my smile.  "It's hard to run a ranch from here"
he said.  He rubbed the wheelchair rails.  "Your mother tries
to do the work for both of us, but every year

there's things that don't get done. It's tough.  But we're okay.
Although I sometimes think I might as well be dead
for all the help I am to her."  He looked away
and blinked a half-a-dozen times, then shook his head.

"You want to ride the bulls,"  he said, "I guess I knew
that all along."  His voice was soft and sad.  "Please try
to understand that every second counts and you
need eight of them to score, but only one to die."

2004, Peter G. Gilchrist
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Wildhorse Camp

When I'm worn by obligations and run down by expectations
and the deadlines have etched fissures in my face,
when my yin and yang are screamin' like intoxicated demons
and my patience disappears without a trace;

When I can't recall the last time I enjoyed a simple pastime
and the space around my soul is getting cramped
then it's time to kick the traces and break out to wilder places
like the mountains up around the Wildhorse Camp.

Adam's standing there to meet me and the dogs run out to greet me
and Diane displays that smile that shames the sun
and the cookhouse chimney's smoking, you can just hear Kerrie joking
and there's Merv who's busy polishing his gun.

Smells like Shel is cooking something that has got my tummy rumbling
and K2 is saddling up by the corral.
She is waiting for a rider to come out and ride beside her
and she's saddled up a horse for me as well.

Then there's Bear, that great enigma who survives without the stigma
of a label you can easily apply;
A collage of friendly faces in the prettiest of places
where the mountains pucker up to kiss the sky.

There's a clearing I remember from my visit last September
that cascades down Whitehorse mountain, near the top.
You can ride along the treeline and the horses make a beeline
for the place they've come to know you're going to stop.

Now the horses all get tethered and on foot you scale the weathered
old escarpment that escapes to brilliant blue.
You traverse the ragged edges of some pretty narrow ledges
and your knees begin to tremble at the view.

There is nothing quite as stunning as the Rocky Mountains running
from beneath the blue horizon in the south,
right across your line of vision, it's as if the ground has risen
in amusement at the gaping of your mouth.

As you settle on the summit you can watch your worries plummet
to the verdant velvet carpet spread below.
You can feel your burden lighten and the future starts to brighten
and the bedlam rushing through you starts to slow.

On the downward ride you wonder what became of all the thunder
that was working up the storm inside your head
and your horse's rocking motion is a tonic, or a potion,
for that part of you you'd given up for dead.

After supper, when you're gazing at the bonfire that is blazing
and the Yukon candle reaches for a star,
you can feel the peace within you and it's then that you begin to
let it whisper through the strings of your guitar.

Soon you're singing, and the next thing Bear is picking up a six string
and the only thing to do is harmonize
while he sings about the old days, the importance of the old ways
and the things you can't discover with your eyes.

Magic happens in the mountains.  You discover little fountains
of the truth that bubble up at every turn
and if you give that sparkling water to your son and to your daughter
there's no telling what the two of them might learn.

Here's a little piece of knowledge you won't get in any college
and I'll leave it up to you to guess the source:
the most effective healing plan to fix the inside of a man
is to put him on the outside of a horse.

2005, Peter G. Gilchrist
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.



About Peter Gilchrist:

I'm not a cowboy, but I have spent a number of years in cattle country.  My ballads have been referred to as cowboy poetry without the cowboys.  I love a good story told in rhythm and rhyme.



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