morning antlers :: arthur sze

Redwinged blackbirds in the cattail pond—
today I kicked and flipped a wing
in the sand and saw it was a sheared
off flicker’s. Yesterday’s rain has left

snow on Tesuque Peak, and the river
will widen then dwindle. We step
into a house and notice antlers mounted
on the wall behind us; a ten-day-old child

looks, nurses, and sleeps; his mother
smiles but says she cries then cries
as emptiness brims up and over.
And as actions are rooted in feelings,

I see how picking spinach in a field
blossoms the picker, how a thoughtless act
shears a wing. As we walk out
to the car, the daylight is brighter

than we knew. We do not believe
flames shoot out of a cauldron of days
but, looking at the horizon, see
flames leap and crown from tree to tree.

unpacking a globe :: arthur sze

I gaze at the Pacific and don’t expect
to ever see the heads on Easter Island,

though I guess at sunlight rippling
the yellow grasses sloping to shore;

yesterday a doe ate grass in the orchard:
it lifted its ears and stopped eating

when it sensed us watching from
a glass hallway—in his sleep, a veteran

sweats, defusing a land mine.
On the globe, I mark the Battle of

the Coral Sea—no one frets at that now.
A poem can never be too dark,

I nod and, staring at the Kenai, hear
ice breaking up along an inlet;

yesterday a coyote trotted across
my headlights and turned his head

but didn’t break stride; that’s how
I want to live on this planet:

alive to a rabbit at a glass door—
and flower where there is no flower.

the chance :: arthur sze

The blue-black mountains are etched
with ice. I drive south in fading light.
The lights of my car set out before
me, and disappear before my very eyes.
And as I approach thirty, the distances
are shorter than I guess? The mind
travels at the speed of light. But for
how many people are the passions
ironwood, ironwood that hardens and hardens?
Take the ex-musician, insurance salesman,
who sells himself a policy on his own life;
or the magician who has himself locked
in a chest and thrown into the sea,
only to discover he is caught in his own chains.
I want a passion that grows and grows.
To feel, think, act, and be defined
by your actions, thoughts, feelings.
As in the bones of a hand in an X-ray,
I want the clear white light to work
against the fuzzy blurred edges of the darkness:
even if the darkness precedes and follows
us, we have a chance, briefly, to shine.

crisscross :: arthur sze

Meandering across a field with wild asparagus,
I write with my body the characters for grass,
water, transformation, ache to be one with spring.
Biting into watermelon, spitting black seeds
onto a plate, I watch the eyes of an Armenian
accordion player, and before dropping a few
euros into his brown cap, smell sweat and fear.
I stay wary of the red horse, Relámpago, latch
the gate behind me; a thorned Russian olive
branch arcs across the path below my forehead,
and, approaching the Pojoaque River, I recall
the sign, beware pickpockets, find backhoe tracks,
water diverted into a ditch. Crisscrossing
the stream, I catch a lightning flash, the white-
capped Truchas peaks, behind, to the east, and in
the interval between lightning and thunder,
as snow accumulates on black branches,
the chasm between what I envision and what I do.

stilling to north :: arthur sze

Just as a blue tip of a compass needle
stills to north, you stare at a pencil

with sharpened point, a small soapstone
bear with a tiny chunk of turquoise

tied to its back, the random pattern
of straw flecked in an adobe wall;

you peruse the silver poplar branches,
the spaces between branches, and as

a cursor blinks, situate at the edge
of loss—the axolotl was last sighted

in Xochimilco over twenty years ago;
a jaguar meanders through tawny

brush in the Gila Wilderness—
and, as the cursor blinks, you guess

it’s a bit of line that arcs—a parsec
made visible—and as you sit,

the imperfections that mark you
attune you to a small emptied flask

tossed to the roadside and the x,
never brewed, that throbs in your veins.

pinwheel :: arthur sze

Firecrackers pop in bursts of white light and smoke;
a cymbal crash reverberates in air: mortality’s

the incubator of dreams. Steaming green beans,
or screwing a wrought-iron hook into a post,

I do not expunge the past but ignite the fuse
to a whistling pinwheel. A girl sways under

a lion’s head, while others undulate behind
in an s. Casting back eight years, we entwine:

a tulip sunlight flares along our shoulders.
At Pergamon, we cross a forecourt—in the center

stands a column bearing an Aesculapian snake,
the space we meander through called the incubator

of dreams. We did not foresee sponges dangling
inside a spice shop or the repeating pattern

of swastikas along walls that have led here.
Though it is Year of the Rooster, I pin there

to here: a line of dumplings, noodles, rice cakes
disappears; reverberating hail on the roof suddenly stops.

at the equinox :: arthur sze

The tide ebbs and reveals orange and purple sea stars.
I have no theory of radiance,

                  but after rain evaporates
off pine needles, the needles glisten.

In the courtyard, we spot the rising shell of a moon,
and, at the equinox, bathe in its gleam.

Using all the tides of starlight,
                  we find
                  vicissitude is our charm.

On the mud flats off Homer,
I catch the tremor when waves start to slide back in;

and, from Roanoke, you carry
                  the leafing jade smoke of willows.

Looping out into the world, we thread
                  and return. The lapping waves

cover an expanse of mussels clustered on rocks;
and, giving shape to what is unspoken,

                  forsythia buds and blooms in our arms.

comet hyakutake :: arthur sze

Comet Hyakutake’s tail stretches for 360 million miles—

in 1996, we saw Hyakutake through binoculars—

the ion tail contains the time we saw bats emerge out of a cavern at dusk—

in the cavern, we first heard stalactites dripping—

first silence, then reverberating sound—

our touch reverberates and makes a blossoming track—

a comet’s nucleus emits X-rays and leaves tracks—

two thousand miles away, you box up books and, in two days, will step through the
invisible rays of an airport scanner—

we write on invisible pages in an invisible book with invisible ink—

in nature’s infinite book, we read a few pages—

in the sky, we read the ion tracks from the orchard—

the apple orchard where blossoms unfold, where we unfold—

budding, the child who writes, “the puzzle comes to life”—

elated, puzzled, shocked, dismayed, confident, loving: minutes to an hour—

a minute, a pinhole lens through which light passes—

Comet Hyakutake will not pass earth for another 100,000 years—

no matter, ardor is here—

and to the writer of fragments, each fragment is a whole—

slanting light :: arthur sze

Slanting light casts onto a stucco wall
the shadows of upwardly zigzagging plum branches.

I can see the thinning of branches to the very twig.
I have to sift what you say, what she thinks,

what he believes is genetic strength, what
they agree is inevitable. I have to sift this

quirky and lashing stillness of form to see myself,
even as I see laid out on a table for Death

an assortment of pomegranates and gourds.
And what if Death eats a few pomegranate seeds?

Does it insure a few years of pungent spring?
I see one gourd, yellow from midsection to top

and zucchini-green lower down, but
already the big orange gourd is gnawed black.

I have no idea why the one survives the killing nights.
I have to sift what you said, what I felt,

what you hoped, what I knew. I have to sift
death as the stark light sifts the branches of the plum.

spring snow :: arthur sze

A spring snow coincides with plum blossoms.
In a month, you will forget, then remember
when nine ravens perched in the elm sway in wind.

I will remember when I brake to a stop,
and a hubcap rolls through the intersection.
An angry man grinds pepper onto his salad;

it is how you nail a tin amulet ear
into the lintel. If, in deep emotion, we are
possessed by the idea of possession,

we can never lose to recover what is ours.
Sounds of an abacus are amplified and condensed
to resemble sounds of hail on a tin roof,

but mind opens to the smell of lightening.
Bodies were vaporized to shadows by intense heat;
in memory people outline bodies on walls.

ten thousand to one :: arthur sze

The Phoenicians guarded a recipe that required
ten thousand murex shells to make
an ounce of Tyrian purple.

Scan the surface of Aldebaran with a radio wave;
grind lapis lazuli
into ultramarine.

Search the summer sky for an Anasazi turkey constellation;
see algae under an electron microscope
resemble a Magellanic Cloud.

A chemist tried to convert benzene into quinine,
but blundered into a violet
aniline dye instead.

Have you ever seen maggots feed on a dead rat?
Listen to a red-tailed hawk glide
over the hushed spruce and

pines in a canyon. Feel a drop of water roll
down a pine needle, and glisten,
hanging, at the tip.

[1000th post!]

the shapes of leaves :: arthur sze

Ginkgo, cottonwood, pin oak, sweet gum, tulip tree:
our emotions resemble leaves and alive
to their shapes we are nourished.

Have you felt the expanse and contours of grief
along the edges of a big Norway maple?
Have you winced at the orange flare

searing the curves of a curling dogwood?
I have seen from the air logged islands,
each with a network of branching gravel roads,

and felt a moment of pure anger, aspen gold.
I have seen sandhill cranes moving in an open field,
a single white whooping crane in the flock.

And I have traveled along the contours
of leaves that have no name. Here
where the air is wet and the light is cool,

I feel what others are thinking and do not speak,
I know pleasure in the veins of a sugar maple,
I am living at the edge of a new leaf.