Archive, First Series, Poems

Brigit Pegeen Kelly: “Lost in the Peaceable Kingdom”

A Bit of PluckLost in the Peaceable Kingdom

The leopard is mine, the snow leopard with the face
Like a dinner plate, and I am the boy in blue knickers

Staring as fiercely as any warrior in any sheepskin
Ever stared, but I have no arrows and my leopard will scare

No one. Now, there are only the tulips and the swans unfolding
Their soft wings, and the green stream along whose banks

Harps are strung in the acacias, over whose waters
The sun passes like a silver hand carrying a cup of wine.

I had not thought enough of death, of entering the black canal,
Of rising from the water with my black feathers wet

And my ears open–like the mouths of babes for milk–to drums
And cymbals, gongs and horns, and that song the stars

Sing just before dawn, where there is a night for them
To leave behind and the loss of it growing. Now our hearts

Are lions’ hearts, golden in our breasts, and if we spit
It is Solomon and the silver of all his temples. Not Solomon

Grundy. Nothing is Grundy here. And though my sandals
Do not quite fit, and though the little gray lambs will never

Leave me alone, there can be only Good morning in all this,
And How do you do? And how do you do again? My mind

Is like the harp strings, with a breeze blowing always
And no rest in sight. It is a mind that belongs

To the four winds, and a body that is only the thought of a thought,
A reminder of something the mind tries to gather into a pile

Like wheat, but the pile blows away, and I watch gold fragments
Turning on the wind. Here the lilies lie down at your feet.

Here everyone wins the prize so you don’t know where to look,
Whose elbow to softly touch. And there is always

In this liquid air the song my mother sang to me, but now
It is for everyone and my heart, which is a lion’s heart,

No longer rolls over and weeps at the sound. What I
Wished for is not as I understood it to be. I have still

Not seen an angel, unless that red cloud passing beyond the trees
When my leopard went for a walk was one. And though

There are no gates here, no locks or keys, there is also no way
To leave–no way in this lion’s heart to desire to do so.

Brigit Pegeen Kelly (1951 – 2016) is the author of¬†To the Place of Trumpets, Song,¬†and¬†The Orchard. This poem, one of two for which the author¬†won Poetry Northwest‘s Theodore Roethke Prize, first appeared in the Spring 1987 issue of¬†the magazine. In that issue, her bio¬†notes that she “lives on a farm in New Jersey and works for the children’s literary magazine¬†Shoe Tree.”
photo credit: cobalt123 Harmonic Vibration via photopin (license)