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,
17 May 1990,
7 July 1990
["ounce" and "irbis", as you must have figured, are two other names for the snow leopard]
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?)
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Trice Titled Poem:
Life & Death
My Song Of My Life
(The Song Is Love)
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.
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,
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
- 19 May 2000
Given: Earth in some end proves itself the adversary of all.
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.
is there left...to 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
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 tissuexenolith - a piece of rock of different origin from the igneous rock in which it is embedded
every nightorange 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.
the beaver palace of matrix, golden lake
secrets, frogs possess the most
delicate sense of
a separate reality
which surely few other
this immense keep which great
of civilization, breathes.
both dares and sings the
in starshine, that darkness, my
darlings, shall never
will shadow all and hide the day
until we depart.
of-sound fortress, home by a
our gasp of discovery.
grouse thumping in the bordering
woods celebrate the
onto this brave industrious
and charmed sea of huts- 7 Avril 2005
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.
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.
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
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
-9 Avril 2005
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
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
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
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.
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?