2013 Issue: Derek Palacio: The Snow Leopard (poem)

The Snow Leopard
by Derek Palacio

for Peter Matthiessen

The days are shorter now and the moon hangs
frozen above the pass. The shallow sun
no longer sweeps across the valley floor.
This is the month when the snow leopard comes.

Thin autumn clouds spiral east, and the damp
mist gathers into bulky winter brume.
Lean snowdrifts harden into stippled ice.
This is the month when the snow leopard comes.

The blue sheep scuffle for lovers and mates.
They charge and ram, but balk at the clamor
of cascading stones. They run from nothing.
This is the month when the snow leopard comes.

Gather your boots and trudge the vacant path
up the leeward slope. Scale the folded gorge
and hope for glazed paw prints and cooling scat.
This is the month when the snow leopard comes.

Tread softly so as not to break the spell,
and listen hard for clicking scree. Sit down,
but do not turn and look. Nothing is there.
This is the month when the snow leopard comes.

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