Peyton's Poems, more


Snow Leopard Dines

for George Schaller


Atop the hoary and crimson snow, crouched

on cushioned paws in the translucent afternoon,

abruptly alone now,

the leopard riddles open the blue sheep's belly.

Ardent, poised to discover once more

the hued visceral treasures sheathed

by that pale camouflage: intestines,

red heart, slate lungs, puce liver,

this is where claw and molar first explore.


Sun sets, then the days pass

as the kill site becomes a transient haunt,

solitary nexus 'twixt crevasse and cave.

The buff grey ounce consumes silently

rear to neck, first the hind muscles, crossing open taupe

spine to the head (where in that ponderous skull

remains the blue sheep's brain, cold,

never lit). Each prey is eaten the same.

Slaked; silent as ice in the amethyst evening,

haunched astride the cliff's sheerest edge

peering across the velvet snow and blinding space,

our irbis knows, as did her prey:

harmony, in survival, is the only value.

Yet mystification - there's her dearest ally: that

deception inherent in dispassionate truth.


where the leopard had stood and faced the void,

suddenly nothing

17 May 1990,

7 July 1990

["ounce" and "irbis", as you must have figured, are two other names for the snow leopard]



I knew a man with a cancer once.

Did it to his lungs. Had a jumbo stroke

as well. Hell, he had two, the latter

anointing him Christmas Night. What a joke.

He drank a lot, and loved a lot--

probably his two favorite things to do.

Said he didn't drink that much.

Felt he didn't love enough. (Do you?)

He couldn't talk straight after it all. Thinking wasn't

sweet or easy. They kept him chock full of drugs.

Only his heart knew. His heart knew.

His brain sang like a thousand starving bugs.

His heart knew the sky was soft and blue.

Knew he'd savaged himself beyond repair.

His grand-kids adored and trusted him still, he knew

that too. I'd lie to say he never despaired.

Now here's the thing though: brilliance, in bursts,

all through his rabid dream, as his body withered and teeth yellowed.

The man grew! The man grew. Worked through

his holy horrors even as he stammered and bellowed.

If art does mirror nature then it's clear reflections waver,

may even contrive pain and fear into beauty.

I don't want that, but I have to say how even

to Dad's sad end he knew only love and duty.

- 28 Avril 2000

If I should ever happen to die, and there's some kind of memorial service for me, this is the poem I want read aloud for me.

For Mother and Father,

The Trice Titled Poem:


Life & Death

My Song Of My Life

(The Song Is Love)

Eternity is, or has, a moment and then its days

are done. Like a cup of coffee you know you left somewhere

in your home, on some surface in some room, can't quite

say where it is now, until eventually you conclude you

probably never poured it. But you might have. Perhaps you already

drank it. The triumphant sun streams red onto the faded blue walls

and the one thing we do know is it's time for bed.

Time for bed but we've had enough of dreams, have we not,

enough of flitting like beetles and swifts through the wastes of the day, and

enough of rising and swearing, as we lie amidst moonlight and meaning,

wishing eyes could only close once more, once more, that next evening

after late dinner I will refuse that last cup.

But oh to have just one more cup.

They call it life, this taut breath, migration from wilderness to wilderness.

Like a star but not like a star (for we have love, a star has flame,

a kindred spirit from an alcove claimed).

I came to be and never thought for years to ask why; by which time

I knew there were many other questions. All around me.

I looked all around. Lights shone. Heroes turned to stone.

Mountains stumbled but rose. Rhythm flourished.

Something calling.

Voices everywhere (yet I heard so little). Laughter

and shouting, breathing, curses, intermingling like bees and fog.

Time and space collapsed and re-formed over and over again.

Colors. Predators and other lovers. Grandeur

and the grandiose blended like flowers in a summer garden.

Interminable presence and also, I believe, side by side,

in addition to the unquestioned opulence of it all,

sheer nothing.

There were so many of us, so much to envy now,

even one another. All of it

distracting as an unnecessary fan with its billow and drone,

as essential as the air and the stars wafting into our bloodstreams.

There was here, it was everywhere and still,

still clearly, there was there.

Often, surprisingly often, I wondered if I should read another poem,

and usually then I did. It repeatedly proved the right thing to do.

A strategy was born.

Often I wondered if I was preoccupied with myself.

I thought about that a lot. Don't ask me what any of it changed.

There was all kinds of life, seen and never seen,

life to the ends of the earth and back,

tumbling, rushing from the air and rising to the sky.

Life within life within life, filling itself, growing

out of its very presence, breeding on hope and charisma.

(Yet an unholy host of it too seemed hell-bent

on ensuring its obverse: life that could want

an end to itself and everything like itself.

Though I still, I stress the point, can't say this for sure-

I say it anyway.

What a puzzle. What a puzzle.)

My years deepened, quickened. Questions of my true fate recurred,

but I told myself always there were so many better questions.

Promises to keep, miles to go, decades to reap, that sort of thing.

Questions of the soul surviving death always seemed askew.

Why would one deduction or the other change

a thing that we do?

My ultimate finish less telling than what went on in the meantime,

that's what I told someone I now suspect was myself.

No reason to think of how it all might end, with moments

by the millions to kiss and release, endless color and forms to caress.

So much shared with every friend,

and still I wish I had been more generous.

I could so easily have been more generous.

Everything just seemed to keep on going. Never

a stop to the billion billion names for God,

each entirely accurate as the one before and the next.

Yet for the record I hazard a guess.

It all boils down to one thing. Or two,

for you metaphysicians - one, and

that which observes the one.

Two things, then: loving; and this moment,

this instant, this exquisite construct

which permits us to go beyond it

and stay within it always.


There you have it. I fancy you already knew.

I can't tell you what love is, but you know.

Keep it, hold it close.

Make your meaning to treasure it.

Love is both the prayer, and its answer, really.

Love and living the eternal present. All else is chaos.

Any other path like a rotting gyre

tangles and twists the future and the past.

We need not die in fear, no one

needs to fade afraid.

To the end of time I will not change my song!

Within and without, it is love

I strive to seek, and seek

to be.

- 19 May 2000



The Soul As Lapidary



Given: Earth in some end proves itself the adversary of all.

Efflorescent from a precipice, bedazzled by wind and sleet,

I savor my thoughts as natural stone - aureate fractals of roan

granite, greisen, sheerest pumice, sleek marbles and fine clays,

a clastic coaction of geologically suspect detritus

plumbed and tilled from ill-defined strata.

Axenic abodes reared, -o singular xenolith! chondrite exotic!

-pure spacious towers, illimitable monoliths, pylons appear

whose ultimate function may become never more clear than

the chaos from which the were sculpted (or woven)--

Powerful, crackling structures may be so conveyed,

but on how many other occasions have they proved more

wont to crumble? poised then foundering abruptly before purported

storms or other climatic emendations which may yet turn out

to have no empiric presence, expressed as turbulent

only in perilous recall.

Yet what without their phantom maelstrom and mist

is there touch? If I need this wreckage, this lapidous desolation

of gritty neuron and synapse, proud axon, bold dendron rising, if I

have even called it forth, then for what?

Even with every pellet of lucid earth strewn for my fingers

to pick over and sift, my inner witness queries: who am I?

What microsome or stain has composed me somehow,

employed me, transformed this hasty dirt to latticework, only to

leave me constrained like a kestrel leashed, alone

...settling into the grass, searcing

into the soil, subsiding into stone?


Who am I to rise up, little wight,

and demand a home and the sky as my right?

I could shake fist like my other kin, sure, never bowing; heaving, swearing

"Here is my place,

always!" yet eventually, always, isn't it so? - some other cliff, some last crag,

the collegial nudge, some ion-blest consensus, the dropping

and the toppling and the hearkening, and the sheer

echoing laughter that will prove to be mine, my final sounds.


Still, where is

there harm now, what meaning is injured

or deprived of respect? if

my fingers

gently awkwardly steal into the soft silvern

lilt of the Chickamauga, or I

allow a fleet wing to sweep

lightly across the aqueous brim then plunge

into the deepest curdled recess of the Tennessee River,

or know the cool euphony of old Golden Lake rustling

through my fingers to

nestle, chuckle against my palm

What harm? even if

all the while a faint susurrus, a beating heart's echo,

dictates that come a later century the bloodless strata

here will no longer recollect me,

quartz will not sense me nor crystal revere me,

these pale dolomites no more shall hallow

nor even recall

nor limn 'neath the morning sun my adventitous rise and fall...


contrary to some aesthetes, it is never death. It is our strongest presence.

Nakedness is not my vulnerability.

Life shall be my one friend.

Here, right here, I am here, forever.

--26 Avril 2000

--27 December 2004


As I composed this poem, I had to check definitions for a number of words to make sure I was using them correctly (and in the process tripped across a couple of others which would surely not have appeared in the poem otherwise). Since I put the definitions at the end of my pages to refer back to, I thought that for fun I might as well leave them here for the benefit of any reader who is kind enough to wonder a couple of times what the hell I am talking about up there. Of course, you may still wonder afterward too what I'm talking about, but at least the meanings of a few of the individual words might be more clear.

adventive - Not native to and not fully established in a new habitat or environment; locally or temporarily naturalized: an adventive weed

axenic - sterile or uncontaminated

axon - long nerve fiber that conducts away from the cell body of a neuron

chondrite - a rock of meteoric origin containing chondrules

clastic - of or belonging to a rock composed of the fragments of other rocks

dendron - a short fibre that conducts toward the cell body of a neutron

greisen - a granitic rock composed of quartz and mica

microsome - a tiny granule in the cytoplasm that is where protein synthesis takes place

under the direction of mRNA

roan - grizzled

striation - any of a number of tiny parallel grooves such as: the scratches left by a glacier on rocks, or the streaks or ridges in muscle tissue

xenolith - a piece of rock of different origin from the igneous rock in which it is embedded


every night

orange moon breathes

not even a sigh,

sharing its light

without favor or foe.

the skeleton trees chant a song

I cannot hear. there is a house close-by

never entered or left.

where are its doors? and what is

their substance? do they even

lead in or out?

none of this I know, and I

will never know these answers.

there are sweet joys in the sky

I have fashioned for myself, and also some

that have come and found me.

others I still elude: I hide

my scent, conceal my breath,

contain my voice, disguise my light.

yet moments are here too when

stillness sweeps over my losses or gains,

and I have no questions for the night

nor vision to blind my sight.

lions sleep, yawn and weep.

lizards wait while tall pines creak.

psychopomps slither among the vines,

along rotting grey logs.

raptly they sip

from cool salinas,

silent and bright

as the night

- 6 January 2005


I began the next poem maybe eight years ago planning it to be a long homage to the beavers of Matrix, and their construction years-in-progress which several of us had come upon exploring in the back acres around a corner of our wetlands one Sunday afternoon. The poem never seemed to fill in the way I wanted it too, and after several attempts over the next couple of years I finally left it. Today by chance I came back to it, not even remembering what the poem was from the site-identification of it in my pc. As I read it over, I realized that whether it was what I'd at first wanted or not, this poem was nearly a finished one. A quarter hour of revision, haiku-formatting and fleshing it out according to what I would now call - mystically or not - the original intentions the poem had for itself, and there it was - complete. I don't know if it would succeed in creating for those who were not there a vision of what we - I think it was Edgar, actually - dubbed "The Swamp Palace", but it fills the bill for me.

thanksgiving 1997:

the beaver palace of matrix, golden lake

swamp crickets have their

secrets, frogs possess the most

delicate sense of

wonder, and beavers

a separate reality

which surely few other

mortals encounter.

this immense keep which great

rodents established,

reared so near the wares

of civilization, breathes.

both dares and sings the

secret, transmitted

in starshine, that darkness, my

darlings, shall never

last, that light once more

will shadow all and hide the day

until we depart.

crooning-cricket wall-

of-sound fortress, home by a

stump-jungle moated,

always I'll recall

our gasp of discovery.

gaudy waterfowl

and curious cocky

grouse thumping in the bordering

woods celebrate the

white sunlight tumbling

onto this brave industrious

and charmed sea of huts

- 7 Avril 2005

Poem Within

When we see

the poem open

(following a respectful yet charged silence),

all is darkness. Though now

a tranquil suggestion of light

reflects at the horizon

from a snowcap or cloud.

In this poem I am a fisherman

alone, lost in my role but

bent on seeing it through. I

had hoped I would be on a boat

but instead I stand at the water's edge

gazing at silhouettes.

Or perhaps I am set a little higher,

witnessing the waves from a bridge.

Thinking that at least my family

will eat tonight.

At this point the verse departs from

the fisher, his purpose is served.

Lines follow, surging images, words

to conjure a heart, a life, but it appears

that in fact the poem never finishes.

Was maybe just never completed,

forgotten by the poet or discarded.

Only after it is entered a third time, or

fourth perhaps, does it become almost strikingly clear

that it does conclude. The poem ended

in the opening line.

What follows, all of it, must be there

only to permit the followers

to find their way into that beginning. A beginning

one is still not quite prepared for

again not quite prepared for.


-9 Avril 2005


As the earliest birds converse

my day's first poem already admires

the blue-lined sheet it adorns.

A noisy poem? Possibly, but already

I like it. Where will it lead?

How will my brand new poem score the time for me,

even this day? I will wander through the city, I know,

wonder at the street, pause and muse, run awhile, and continue

forging my way through the sunlight. Strange maybe,

but I do not think I will be recalling the poem

then, to think about it. Some days, wreathed

by beauty and the void, their musics mingling,

everything simply interrupts everything.

Silence, I tell myself, we need more

silence. Though as I viewed the poem again

later in the morning, it said to me that silence

itself is like sound, any transformation is noise--

unspoken or voiced, every twinkle or shimmer

resonates in the pith of what it alters until it quiets

itself too, and helps me to empty

my mind into

the stillness.

Perhaps already I see night approach.

Light completing itself as

my long shadows float me softly home, to

where I will sit and think together with

one I adore. Our eyes at moments

will touch, until we are both still

and silent, and at last I become

one with that inscrutable poem of her

I set onto a page before

the sun was seen.

-7 May 2005


The Dojo In Meditation

As our timelessness ends for now

and Sensei speaks quietly of katas

and tomorrows I hear every word

and within every fascia every gate

of me I know us all and my soul

feels our depths yet it is high-soaring

birds I see circling above the dewy

river so certain of their chosen bright

expanse of sky no lit peaks or beach

in sight and one with the wind as though

there were no wings nor winds but

rather the two as one like a beating

heart perhaps or a

lemur's tiny toe

--8 May 2005

May 2005: In Matrix, Golden Lake

This way I've found to live,

is it good? Tripped into

through choices ignored,

decrees shrugged off, and quests discarded

like tasks turned dissonant,

is it not still good, for now?

Threading my way

through light and spaces where

in some I am far too human,

in others barely sufficient, when

will this visibility I have adopted

become real?

In the centuries after

the pestilence passed through,

when the mountains were green

again and their mists tinted with

amber and rose, many tyrants flourished,

while so many lovers died, died

or vanished abruptly,

barely shifting from cross-legged

postures of respect, or lifting from embrace.

Through it all, light bubbled up

from the heart of this deep

bog, transforming itself into tall grasses

and haze, sly beaver and

a sky of light turquoise, even this stumpy shore

which has provided a flat stone

to crouch upon as I strive once more

to learn to ignore all faith

but the one which forgets faith.

Faith itself? - absurd,

complete. I ramble through

Crown lands, alongside silent marshes,

taste apple and later a pear,

then briefly the lips of an old friend

whose path I cross. The day is fleet and

forever. I'm not looking for anyplace new.

A light rain has helped me to glisten.

When the full moon rises, if

I'm still dripping,

will its reflections springing from my fingertips

teach me again, again, that I am not alone,

and all my cares are ecstasy?