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Degrees of Victory

``I've failed again,'' he says

of another project,

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seemingly slipped away

like spoken promises

carried away by the wind.

Stevenson believed in his defeat

even while ``Treasure Island,''

``Kidnapped,'' and Jekyll and Hyde

were coming to life

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beneath his pen.

``I've failed again,'' he says.

But I know he is certain

there are degrees of victory

like that of the man

who journeyed to the far end

of the world

for a glimpse of the rare,

elusive snow leopard.

And he said, although

he never saw it,

he came home satisfied,

knowing in his heart

that as he climbed

the farthest slippery reaches

of the sacred Crystal Mountain,

the snow leopard was always there,

hiding among the high rocks,

viewing him.