Peter Steele's King James flurries


More swift than stern
(for Peter Steele SJ) 

For years you've taught us all those things
To disconcert imaginings
Or glint like hummingbirds' flashed wings,
_______Dear Peter;
None of us wanted your imaginings
_______To be neater.

Discerning planets from prismatic angles
(Far from drab academic wrangles);
Your verse can prance but never tangles
_______In granny-knots
For all its curlicues and spangles,
_______Of which there's lots.

You are sustained — I guess I know —
By the Holy Spirit fluttering below
And you become its Papageno,
_______Sagacious poet.
If there's a conceptual furbelow
_______You'll know it,

Taming that jigger as metaphor.
But the merest bud or apple core,
A cairngorm or a mouse's paw
_______Can be your grist
As you give it several octanes more,

Or prestidigitator of
A maplike sphere infused with love,
Showered with subjunctives from above,
_______Sublimely good.
Even your Trinitarian faith
_______Can serve as food

For those of us who blandly lack
Such nourishment, or at our back
Hear the vague tread, the clickety-clack,
_______Of those great stories
And gorgeous King James Bible prose,
_______In weakened flurries.

You've written, alas, that you'll no more travel
To hallowed sites where cameras marvel.
Hearing this note, I'm stung to cavil
_______That it can't be true,
But no blip or snitch will ever unravel
_______My love for you. 

Chris Wallace-CrabbeChris Wallace-Crabbe AM is an Australian poet and Emeritus Professor in The Australian Centre, University of Melbourne. He has a distinguished career as poet, essayist, literary critic, teacher, cultural ambassador and advocate for the humanities and creative arts. 


Topic tags: Chris Wallace-Crabbe, Peter Steele, Australian poems, King James Bible



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Existing comments

What a fine tribute to a worthy recipient!
Chris Watson | 23 August 2011

Thank you for this highly coloured and elegant poem in honour of Peter Steele - it even rhymes.
Rodney Wetherell | 23 August 2011

A "sublimely good " paean from one great poet to another.
John McEncroe | 23 August 2011

Thank you Chris for your tribute to Peter Steele. You capture as I remember him so well - "Swift, evangelist, a maplike sphere infused with love" He taught me that the universe is at heart benign. I am always inspired by his poetry and writing.
Denis Quinn | 25 August 2011

So many students have loved Peter and been privileged to learn from him. Thank you for writing on behalf of us all, as well as for his many friends.
Gwynith Young | 26 August 2011


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