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.