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Arnold Klein

The panther keeps untroubled watch
High in the yellow tree-trunk’s notch.
He would not down except to kill.
But come the people, and he will.

How will they make the panther fall?
He would not down with people near;
He would not down perhaps at all
To take the phantom white-tailed deer
Or wild hog, and feed his fill,
Till dark, and it is morning still.
How can they bring the panther down,
Who come to count and not to kill?

The panther yawns and lays his jaws
Over his carpals and his claws.
The skinned tree slides from white to brown,
Dark below, but, where he lies,
A little bit yellower than the skies.
He watches them through twice-closed eyes,
His yellow ears agree, and frown.
Why should he fear and not despise?
How will they bring the panther down?

The winter trees are hard aloft
But on the ground the leaves are soft.
The wet red nap is inches old
And slow decay and moss and mold
Make no sound, and mute, in part,
Echoes their footsteps make or start.
Here and there the leaves are gold,
And where one tree has mainly shed
Only such, sundown, I know,
Will cull these from surrounding red
And light them as with light below;
Light from a day already dead,
Fit for an unseen sun to throw;
For I have stood in such dead glow
And wondered what her eyes would do,
Her twice-blue eyes, were they lit so,
If that gold would warm their blue.
But heavy gear and booted tread
Now turn that gold to muddy brown.
The gold they seek is overhead.
How will they bring the panther down?
The panther’s ears are quick to weigh
Rumors for rivals and for prey.
The land around is never still,
And every instant, something dies,
And some quick call reports the kill;
Or some soft splash, the heron’s bill,
Lifting to throat its silent prize
Or shaking to stir the oozy seeps;
Rumors the panther, where he lies,
Weighs and dismisses—weighs and sleeps,
Safely between the earth and skies,
Safely beyond his rivals’ reach;
For nothing he knows to front or fear
Closes unkenned, nor now draws near,
Only this human tread and speech;
Why should he fear them, weighing each?
Threats are from rivals, and to range,
Since transients are many, and tenants die,
And females are fewer, and boundaries change,
So any encroachment, even shy,
Must be resisted, now and here.
But why should he down, no rivals by,
Only this human speech and gear?

The land around the panther’s pine
Is dense with straggler fig and vine
And limestone sinkholes, cold at dawn,
And even were he to quit his keep,
Within one and another leap
There offers a refuge as withdrawn;
For there a saw-toothed thicket stands,
Under whose interlocked roof, a maze
Of dead toothed leaves and dry, drained sands
Dissembles a twilight of browns and greys,
A little bit somberer than his fawn;
A labyrinth of broken light
To vanish in silently, and to sleep,
Safely between the day and night,
Safely enwoofed in grey and brown;
And who could prevent him, leap for leap?
How will they bring the panther down,
If even down, he dens unseen?

With Telozol and ketamine.

Love, the blue-eyed panthers fall;
Love, the wood storks perish, all;
And, love, I wonder whose it is
That’s more aloof and less exposed,
Your eyes’ attentive blue, or his;
Though yours are open, and his, closed.