Snow Leopard

Poem from Dark Sky Park by Philip Gross

                   ...not white like the snow

 

more moon-panther or silvery cloud-cat

with her ripple-patterns melting as (oh,

 

but she's beautiful) you stare

while valley mist whirls up and blows

 

between the boulders, or the sun breaks through

and all the edges are a smattering of shadows,

 

a glint on wet rock. Now she's still,

crouched. Now...sprung. There she goes

 

ledge to ledge , bound by bound,

as stones go rattling to the scree below

 

and wild goats scatter. She has one

marked. That one. (Play the chase scene slow

 

as films do, as if this might be for ever,

these last moments the poor prey will know. )

 

But it’s off, the scraggy old big-bottomed

tahr — stumbling, you’d think, falling — no,

 

think again, as with rubbery fantastic

poise it leaps (there is a half mile drop below)

 

and catches itself, teeters like a tightrope

clown… leaps, snatching inch-wide footholds

 

with clattery hooves, down — leaving leopard

stranded, panting, stumped. Why are we so

 

in love with beauty, with its claws and teeth,

as though this is its story, not our own

 

and the goat’s — that plucky comedy

played out through centuries

 

between the sheer drop and the killing snow?