You Know You Walk in Bear Country

Off the highway. The dwarf

fireweed are in pre-bloom.

Spruce tips are ripe for picking.

Beard moss shifts, dances.

Scud slips across mountains.

 

Tumbled garbage cans.

Unexpected rain:

drizzle to downpour to nothing.

Flush of salmon berry blossom.

Skunk cabbage stalks devoured.

 

Inviting green grasses.

Rusty hinge kelp on beach.

Skittish heron in estuary.

Raucous ravens overhead.

You pack bell, spray, the advisable firearm.


December 30th

While brewing hot cinnamon tea

I add this page to my book of Alaskan sunsets.

Memories of those in brilliant orange, cast light on Sitka Sound

and through the black outline of bare alder branches.

Others slide behind misshapen forms of

frozen sea ice, indigo and dark wine skies

blanket the Bering Sea

the profiles of Bruce and the dog against coastline and horizon.

I’ve chased the setting sun from Redoubt to Iliamna;

from Mile 13 of K-Beach Road to Homer,

one cold dwelling to another,

for the warm company of sister and friend.

 

What is more important this day

than to watch golden sun

light its low path across the sky,

illuminate the squalls, and

add shadows to the wind?

 

While the sun romps between storms

and the skies eventually darken,

my memories travel with the sun

on a vaporous trail of tea.


Carol’s Laminaria

Luminary,

your flame draws you

to the rocky beach

where the kelp

washes upon the shore:

slick, brown blades coiled

by bull kelp tossed

with popweed.

 

You carry an armful

of slippery laminaria

to the tree line;

think of women hanging salmon,

while draping your haul

over a branch

to sway,

sing and dry

in the wind.

 

In photographs

you capture the whorls

and turns of sea

tangle.  You leave

behind your beach

finds:  smooth stick,

broken shell.  I look

 

for your signature,

your thumbprint,

your gathered kelp

this side of the equinox,

this side of the sea:

gold thread embroidered,

cupping the moisture

of drizzle and herring snow

in March.


Kersten Christianson is a raven-watching, moon-gazing, high school English-teaching Alaskan. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing/Poetry through the Low-Residency Program at the University of Alaska Anchorage in 2016. Her recent work has appeared in Cirque, Tidal Echoes, Inklette, We’Moon, Sheila-Na-Gig and Pure Slush among other literary journals.  Kersten co-edits the quarterly journal Alaska Women Speak.  When not exploring the summer lands and dark winter of the Yukon Territory, she lives in Sitka, Alaska with her husband and photographer Bruce Christianson, and daughter Rie. Website: kerstenchristianson.com