Jennifer Birkett


Remembering Peter (March 14 1954 - May 3 2004)

Owl Boy

      My mom remembers his birth
      “pains growing stronger with each wave –
      a pushing down force I had no control over.”

      “His first words were "What does the owl say?"

      And later, a game
      We got down on our knees
      and chased each other around the floor.”

      “Peter loved to help me.
      When our dog died, he took Tara’s body
      out to the hill and buried her.”

Boats and Weapons

      Big brother in the room across the hall
      with grandfather's swords, pistols and crystal radio set.

      Once he got mad and pounded on my chest.

      Basement flooded that spring & we made boats
      and sailed together in the Cesspool Sea.

      Secret trails blazed by my brother.
      Who could light fires in the rain
      & fight off things blown down by the wind


      I crawled into his bed at night
      when spirits rattled coat hangers in my closet
      & the room looked all crooked & wrong.

      He taught me to see things
      before they see you.


      He went away to boarding school and wore uniforms
      And then away to college

      Sometimes he would visit.

            Miniature golf
            Stoned again
            Shouting with glee.

Brother Dragon Wizard

      He turned me and Tim (my other brother) on to books
      where characters transform fatal flaws thru heroic striving
      Worlds of wizards & dragons and magical powers.
      Where the dark force was very strong.
      Peter liked happy endings.

Ring Ring

      When Peter called I almost never picked up the phone.
      Tim says, “Communicating with him was like
      trying to put a three pronged plug into a two pronged socket.”
      Life on his terms.



      Four unsuccessful back surgeries
      Constant pain.
      Fat, sick & grey under his eyes.

      Now things see him before he sees them.


      Heart attack in Calgary strip mall parking lot – died in his car.
      Keys on floor with cigarette butts and crumpled coffee cups.
      Found at first light, after missing all night.


      Viewing his body.
      World stops.

      Mother, daughter, girlfriend.

      Nothing to think.
      Just this.
      He just lies there and has no more chi than a pen.

      Somebody you know suddenly turns into cold stone.
      They don’t see you, don’t hear you, and don’t move.

      Later, my mother tells me
      what he said about wizard Gandolf
      who plummeted to his death fighting a dark force monster.
      “Don’t worry, mom, he isn’t really dead.”

      Gone completely. Completely gone.
      Gone beyond.