Canadian Poetry Online top banner link to Canadian Poetry Online home page link to University of Toronto Libraries home page

Happy Eggs

Peter Christensen
From:   Winter Range. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan: Thistledown Press, 2001.

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 de-scrambling 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

Peter Christensen's works copyright © to the author.

Canadian Poetry Online bottom banner link to University of Toronto Libraries home page link to Digital Collections home page link to University of Toronto Library catalogue link to Canadian Poetry Online home page link to University of Toronto Libraries home page link to Contact Information page