Arthur Sze

Arthur Sze Poems

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.

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

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.

The path was purple in the dusk.
I saw an owl, perched,
on a branch.

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

with sharpened point, a small soapstone

Burglars enter an apartment and ransack drawers;
finding neither gold nor cash, they flee,

leaving the laundry and bathroom lights on—

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

1 I gaze through a telescope at the Orion Nebula,
a blue vapor with a cluster of white stars,
gaze at the globular cluster in Hercules,
needle and pinpoint lights stream into my eyes.
A woman puts a baby in a plastic bag
and places it in a dumpster; someone
parking a car hears it cry and rescues it.
Is this the little o, the earth?
Deer at dusk are munching apple blossoms;
a green snake glides down flowing acequia water.
The night is rich with floating pollen;
in the morning, we break up the soil
to prepare for corn. Fossilized cotton pollen
has been discovered at a site above six thousand feet.
As the character yi, change, is derived
from the skin of a chameleon, we are
living the briefest hues on the skin
of the world. I gaze at the Sombrero Galaxy
between Corvus and Spica: on a night with no moon,
I notice my shadow by starlight.

2 Where does matter end and space begin?

blue jays eating suet;

juggling three crumbled newspaper balls
wrapped with duct tape;

tasseling corn;

the gravitational bending of light;

"We're dying";

stringing a coral necklace;

he drew his equations on butcher paper;

vanishing in sunlight;


she folded five hundred paper cranes and placed them in a

sleeping in his room in a hammock;

they drew a shell to represent zero;

red persimmons;

what is it like to catch up to light?

he threw Before Completion:
six in the third place, nine in the sixth.

3 A wavering line of white-faced ibises,
flying up the Rio Grande, disappears.
A psychic says, "Search a pawnshop

for the missing ring." Loss, a black hole.
You do not intend to commit a series of
blunders, but to discover in one error

an empty cocoon. A weaver dumps
flashlight batteries into a red-dye bath.
A physicist says, "After twenty years,

nothing is as I thought it would be."
You recollect watching a yellow-
and-black-banded caterpillar in a jar

form a chrysalis: in days the chrysalis
lightened and became transparent:
a monarch emerged and flexed its wings.

You are startled to retrieve what you forgot:
it has the crunching sound of river
breakup when air is calm and very clear.

4 Beijing, 1985: a poet describes herding pigs
beside a girl with a glass eye and affirms
the power to dream and transform. Later,
in exile, he axes his wife and hangs himself.
Do the transformations of memory
become the changing lines of divination?
Is the continuum of a moment a red
poppy blooming by a fence, or is it
a woman undergoing radiation treatment
who stretches out on a bed to rest
and senses she is stretching out to die?
At night I listen to your breathing,
guess at the freckles on your arms,
smell your hair at the back of your neck.
Tiger lilies are budding in pots in the patio;
daikon is growing deep in the garden.
I see a bewildered man ask for direction,
and a daikon picker points the way with a daikon.

5 He threw Duration;


what is it like to catch up to light?

a collapsing vertebra;

the folding wings of a blue dragonfly;

receiving a fax;

buffeted on a floatplane between islands;

a peregrine falcon making a slow circle with outstretched

he crumpled papers, threw them on the floor,
called it City of Bums;

polar aligning;

inhaling the smell of her hair;

a red handprint on a sandstone wall;

digging up ginseng;

carding wool;

where does matter end and space begin?

6 Mushroom hunting at the ski basin, I spot
a blood-red amanita pushing up under fir,
find a white-gilled Man On Horseback,
notice dirt breaking and carefully unearth
a cluster of gold chanterelles. I stop
and gaze at yellow light in a clearing.
As grief dissolves and the mind begins to clear,
an s twist begins to loosen the z twisted fiber.
A spider asleep under a geranium leaf
may rest a leg on the radial string of a web,
but cool nights are pushing nasturtiums to bloom.
An eggplant deepens in hue and drops to the ground.
Yellow specks of dust float in the clearing;
in memory, a series of synchronous spaces.
As a cotton fiber burns in an s twist
and unravels the z twist of its existence,
the mind unravels and ravels a wave of light,
persimmons ripening on leafless trees.

Corpses push up through thawing permafrost

as I scrape salmon skin off a pan at the sink;
on the porch, motes in slanting yellow light

undulate in air. Is Venus at dusk as luminous
as Venus at dawn? Yesterday I was about to

seal a borax capsule angled up from the bottom

of a decaying exterior jamb when I glimpsed
jagged ice floating in a bay. Naval sonar

slices through whales, even as a portion
of male dorsal fin is served to the captain

of an umiak. Stopped in traffic, he swings from

a chairlift, gazes down at scarlet paintbrush.
Moistening an envelope before sealing it,

I recall the slight noise you made when I
grazed your shoulder. When a frost wiped out

the chalk blue flowering plant by the door,

I watered until it revived from the roots.
The song of a knife sharpener in an alley

passes through the mind of a microbiologist
before he undergoes anesthesia for surgery.

The first night of autumn has singed

bell peppers by the fence, while budding
chamisa stalks in the courtyard bend to ground.

Observing people conversing at a nearby table,
he visualizes the momentary convergence

and divergence of lines passing through a point.

The wisteria along the porch never blooms;
a praying mantis on the wood floor sips water

from a dog bowl. Laughter from upstairs echoes
downstairs as teenage girls compare bra sizes.

An ex-army officer turned critic frets

over the composition of a search committee,
snickers and disparages rival candidates.

A welder, who turns away for a few seconds
to gaze at the Sangre de Cristos, detects a line

of trucks backed up on an international overpass

where exhaust spews onto houses below.
The day may be called One Toothroad or Six Thunderpain,

but the naming of a day will not transform it,
nor will the mathematics of time halt.

An imprint of ginkgo leaf—fan-shaped, slightly

thickened, slightly wavy on broad edge, two-
lobed, with forking parallel veins but no

midvein—in a slab of coal is momentary beauty,
while ginkgoes along a street dropping gold

leaves are mindless beauty of the quotidian.

Once thought extinct, the ginkgo
was discovered in Himalayan monasteries

and propagated back into the world. Although
I cannot save a grasshopper singed by frost

trying to warm itself on a sunlit walkway,

I ponder shadows of budding pink and orange
bougainvilleas on a wall. As masons level sand,

lay bricks in horizontal then vertical pairs,
we construct a ground to render a space

our own. As light from a partial lunar eclipse

diffuses down skylight walls, we rock and
sluice, rock and sluice, fingertips fanned

to fanned fingertips, debouch into plenitude.
Venus vanishes in a brightening sky:

the diamond ring of a solar eclipse persists.

You did not have to fly to Zimbabwe in June 2001
to experience it. The day recalls Thirteen Death

and One Deer when an end slips into a beginning.
I recall mating butterflies with red dots on wings,

the bow of a long liner thudding on waves,

crescendo of water beginning to boil in a kettle,
echoes of humpback whales. In silence, dancers

concentrate on movements onstage; lilacs bud
by a gate. As bits of consciousness constellate,

I rouse to a 3 A.M. December rain on the skylight.

A woman sweeps glass shards in a driveway,
oblivious to elm branches reflected on windshields

of passing cars. Juniper crackles in the fireplace;
flukes break the water as a whale dives.

The path of totality is not marked by

a shadow hurtling across the earth's surface
at three thousand kilometers per hour.

Our eyelashes attune to each other.
At the mouth of an arroyo, a lamb skull

and ribcage bleach in the sand; tufts

of fleece caught on barbed wire vanish.
The Shang carved characters in the skulls

of their enemies, but what transpired here?
You do not need to steep turtle shells

in blood to prognosticate clouds. Someone

dumps a refrigerator upstream in the riverbed
while you admire the yellow blossoms of

a golden rain tree. A woman weeds, sniffs
fragrance from a line of onions in her garden;

you scramble an egg, sip oolong tea.

The continuous bifurcates into the segmented
as the broken extends. Someone steals

a newspaper while we doze. A tiger
swallowtail lands on a patio columbine;

a single agaric breaks soil by a hollyhock.

Pushing aside branches of Russian olives
to approach the Pojoaque River, we spot

a splatter of flicker feathers in the dirt.
Here chance and fate enmesh.

Here I hold a black bowl rinsed with tea,

savor the warmth at my fingertips,
aroma of emptiness. We rock back and forth,

back and forth on water. Fins of spinner
dolphins break the waves; a whale spouts

to the north-northwest. What is not impelled?

Yellow hibiscus, zodiac, hairbrush;
barbed wire, smog, snowflake—when I still

my eyes, the moments dilate. Rain darkens
gravel in the courtyard; shriveled apples

on branches are weightless against dawn.

He slips on ice near a mailbox — 

no gemsbok leaps across the road — 

a singer tapped an eagle feather on his shoulders — 

women washed indigo-dyed yarn in this river, but today gallium and germanium particles are washed downstream — 

once they dynamited dikes to slow advancing troops — 

picking psilocybin mushrooms and hearing cowbells in the mist — 

as a child, he was tied to a sheep and escaped marauding soldiers — 

an apple blossom opens to five petals — 

as he hikes up a switchback, he remembers undressing her — 

from the train window, he saw they were on ladders cutting fruit off cacti — 

in the desert, a crater of radioactive glass — 

assembling shards, he starts to repair a gray bowl with gold lacquer — 

they ate psilocybin mushrooms, gazed at the pond, undressed — 

hunting a turkey in the brush, he stops — 

from the ponderosa pines: whoo-ah, whoo whoo whoo — 

At midnight, he can't see
the white picket fence
or the tomato stalks, shriveled,

in the garden, though
he knows the patio,
strewn with willow leaves,

plumes of tall grasses,
upright and still;
and, as he peers into the yard,

he senses a moment
wicking into flame — 
walking up an arroyo,

they gaze back
across the Pojoaque valley,
spot the glinting tin roofs,

cottonwoods leafing
along the curves of the river — 
a green tide

surges in their arteries
as well as the trees;
tonight, spring infuses fall,

and memory's wick
draws the liquefied
wax of experience up into flame.

A man hauling coal in the street is stilled forever.
Inside a temple, instead of light

a slow shutter lets the darkness in.
I see a rat turn a corner running from a man with a chair trying to smash it,

see people sleeping at midnight in a Wuhan street on bamboo beds,
a dead pig floating, bloated, on water.

I see a photograph of a son smiling who two years ago fell off a cliff
and his photograph is in each room of the apartment.

I meet a woman who had smallpox as a child, was abandoned by her mother
but who lived, now has two daughters, a son, a son-in-law;

they live in three rooms and watch a color television.
I see a man in blue work clothes whose father was a peasant

who joined the Communist party early but by the time of the Cultural Revolution
had risen in rank and become a target of the Red Guards.

I see a woman who tried to kill herself with an acupuncture needle
but instead hit a vital point and cured her chronic asthma.

A Chinese poet argues that the fundamental difference between East and West
is that in the East an individual does not believe himself

in control of his fate but yields to it.
As a negative reverses light and dark

these words are prose accounts of personal tragedy becoming metaphor,
an emulsion of silver salts sensitive to light,

laughter in the underground bomb shelter converted into a movie theater,
lovers in the Summer Palace park.

Poised on a bridge, streetlights
on either shore, a man puts
a saxophone to his lips, coins
in an upturned cap, and a carousel

in a piazza begins to turn:
where are the gates to paradise?
A woman leans over an outstretched
paper cup — leather workers sew

under lamps: a belt, wallet, purse — 
leather dyed maroon, beige, black — 
workers from Seoul, Lagos, Singapore — 
a fresco on a church wall depicts

the death of a saint: a friar raises
both hands in the air — on an airplane,
a clot forms in a woman's leg
and starts to travel toward her heart — 

a string of notes riffles the water;
and, as the clot lodges, at a market
near lapping waves, men unload
sardines in a burst of argentine light.

Nailing up chicken wire on the frame house,
or using a chalk line, or checking a level at a glance
gets to be easy.
We install double-pane windows
pressurized with argon between the panes
for elevations over 4500´.
And use pick and shovel
to dig for the footing for the annex. Lay cinder blocks,
and check levels. Pour the cement floor, and
use wood float and steel trowel to finish the surface
as it sets.
Nailing into rough, dense, knotted
two-by-twelves, or using a chalk line to mark the locations
of the fire blocks, or checking the level of a
stained eight-by-ten window header gets to be
In nailing up chicken wire, we know
how to cut for the canal, pull the wire up over the
fire wall, make cuts for the corners, tuck it
around back, and nail two-head nails into the stud.
And when the footing is slightly uneven and we are
laying a first row of cinder blocks, know that a
small pebble under a corner often levels the top
to the row.
And, starting on rock lath, the various
stages of a house - cutting vigas, cleaning aspens for
latillas, installing oak doors, or plastering the
adobe wall - are facets of a cut opal.

1 The dragons on the back of a circular bronze mirror
swirl without end. I sit and am an absorbing form:
I absorb the outline of a snowy owl on a branch,
the rigor mortis in a hand. I absorb the crunching sounds
when you walk across a glacial lake with aquamarine
ice heaved up here and there twenty feet high.
I absorb the moment a jeweler pours molten gold
into a cuttlefish mold and it begins to smoke.
I absorb the weight of a pause when it tilts
the conversation in a room. I absorb the moments
he sleeps holding her right breast in his left hand
and know it resembles glassy waves in a harbor
in descending spring light. Is the mind a mirror?
I see pig carcasses piled up from the floor
on a boat docked at Wanxian and the cook
who smokes inadvertently drops ashes into soup.
I absorb the stench of burning cuttlefish bone,
and as moments coalesce see to travel far is to return.

2 A cochineal picker goes blind;

Mao, swimming across the Yangtze River,
was buoyed by underwater frogmen;

in the nursing home,
she yelled, "Everyone here has Alzheimer's!"

it blistered his mouth;

they thought the tape of erhu solos was a series of spy messages;

finding a bag of piki pushpinned to the door;

shapes of saguaros by starlight;

a yogi tries on cowboy boots at a flea market;

a peregrine falcon
shears off a wing;

her niece went through the house and took what she wanted;

"The sooner the better";

like a blindman grinding the bones of a snow leopard;

she knew you had come to cut her hair;

suffering: this and that:
iron 26, gold 79;

they dared him to stare at the annular eclipse;

the yellow pupils of a saw-whet owl.

3 The gold shimmer at the beginning of summer
dissolves in a day. A fly mistakes a
gold spider, the size of a pinhead, at the center
of a glistening web. A morning mushroom
knows nothing of twilight and dawn?
Instead of developing a navy, Ci Xi
ordered architects to construct a two-story
marble boat that floats on a lotus-covered lake.
Mistake a death cap for Caesar's amanita
and in hours a hepatic hole opens into the sky.
To avoid yelling at his pregnant wife,
a neighbor installs a boxing bag in a storeroom;
he periodically goes in, punches, punches,
reappears and smiles. A hummingbird moth
hovers and hovers at a woman wearing a
cochineal-dyed flowery dress. Liu Hansheng
collects hypodermic needles, washes them
under a hand pump, dries them in sunlight,
seals them in Red Cross plastic bags,
resells them as sterilized new ones to hospitals.

4 Absorb a corpse-like silence and be a brass
cone at the end of a string beginning
to mark the x of stillness. You may puzzle
as to why a meson beam oscillates, or why
galaxies appear to be simultaneously redshifting
in all directions, but do you stop to sense
death pulling and pulling from the center
of the earth to the end of the string?
A mother screams at her son, "You're so stupid,"
but the motion of this anger is a circle.
A teen was going to attend a demonstration,
but his parents, worried about tear gas,
persuaded him to stay home: he was bludgeoned
to death that afternoon by a burglar.
I awake dizzy with a searing headache
thinking what nightmare did I have
that I cannot remember only to discover
the slumlord dusted the floor with roach powder.

5 Moored off Qingdao, before sunrise,
the pilot of a tanker is selling dismantled bicycles.
Once, a watchmaker coated numbers on the dial

with radioactive paint and periodically
straightened the tip of the brush in his mouth.
Our son sights the North Star through a straw

taped to a protractor so that a bolt
dangling from a string marks the latitude.
I remember when he said his first word, "Clock";

his 6:02 is not mine, nor is your 7:03 his.
We visit Aurelia in the nursing home and find
she is sleeping curled in a fetal position.

A chain-smoking acupuncturist burps, curses;
a teen dips his head in paint thinner.
We think, had I this then that would,

but subjunctive form is surge and ache.
Yellow dips of chamisa are flaring open.
I drop a jar of mustard, and it shatters in a wave.

6 The smell of roasted chili;

descending into the epilimnion;

the shape of a datura leaf;

a bank robber superglued his fingertips;

in the lake,
ocean-seal absorption;

a moray snaps up a scorpion fish;

he had to mistake and mistake;

burned popcorn;

he lifted the fly agaric off of blue paper
and saw a white galaxy;

sitting in a cold sweat;

a child drinking Coke out of a formula bottle
has all her teeth capped in gold;

chrysanthemum-shaped fireworks exploding over the water;

red piki passed down a ladder;


as a lobster mold transforms a russula into a delicacy;

replicating an Anasazi
yucca fiber and turkey-feather blanket.

7 He looks at a series of mirrors: Warring States
Western Han, Eastern Han, Tang, Song,
and notices bits of irregular red corrosion

on the Warring States mirror. On the back,
three dragons swirl in mist and April air.
After sixteen years that first kiss

still has a flaring tail. He looks at the TLV
pattern on the back of the Han mirror:
the mind has diamond points east, south, west, north.

He grimaces and pulls up a pile of potatoes,
notices snow clouds coming in from the west.
She places a sunflower head on the northwest

corner of the fence. He looks at the back
of the Tang mirror: the lion and grape
pattern is so wrought he turns, watches her

pick eggplant, senses the underlying
twist of pleasure and surprise that
in mind they flow and respond endlessly.

8 I find a rufous hummingbird on the floor
of a greenhouse, sense a redshifting
along the radial string of a web.
You may draw a cloud pattern in cement
setting in a patio, or wake to
sparkling ferns melting on a windowpane.
The struck, plucked, bowed, blown
sounds of the world come and go.
As first light enters a telescope
and one sees light of a star when the star
has vanished, I see a finch at a feeder,
beans germinating in darkness;
a man with a pole pulls yarn out
of an indigo vat, twists and untwists it;
I hear a shout as a child finds Boletus
barrowsii under ponderosa pine;
I see you wearing an onyx-and-gold pin.
In curved space, is a line a circle?

9 Pausing in the motion of a stroke,
two right hands
grasping a brush;

staring through a skylight
at a lunar eclipse;

a great blue heron;
wings flapping,
landing on the rail of a float house;

near and far:
a continuous warp;

a neighbor wants to tear down this fence;
a workman covets it
for a trastero;

raccoons on the rooftop
eating apricots;

the character xuan -
dark, dyed -
pinned to a wall above a computer;

lovers making
a room glow;

weaving on a vertical loom:
sound of a comb,

hiding a world in a world:
1054, a supernova.

1 In a concussion,
the mind severs the pain:
you don't remember flying off a motorcycle,
and landing face first
in a cholla.

But a woman stabbed in her apartment,
by a prowler searching for
money and drugs,
will never forget her startled shriek
die in her throat,
blood soaking into the floor.

The quotidian violence of the world
is like a full moon rising over the Ortiz mountains;
its pull is everywhere.
But let me live a life of violent surprise
and startled joy. I want to
thrust a purple iris into your hand,
give you a sudden embrace.

I want to live as Wang Hsi-chih lived
writing characters in gold ink on black silk—
not to frame on a wall,
but to live the splendor now.

2 Deprived of sleep, she hallucinated
and, believing she had sold the genetic
research on carp, signed a confession.
Picking psilocybin mushrooms in the mountains

of Veracruz, I hear tin cowbells
in the slow rain, see men wasted on pulque
sitting under palm trees. Is it
so hard to see things as they truly are:

a route marked in red ink on a map,
the shadows of apricot leaves thrown
in wind and sun on a wall? It is
easy to imagine a desert full of agaves

and golden barrel cactus, red earth, a red sun.
But to truly live one must see things
as they are, as they might become:
a wrench is not a fingerprint

on a stolen car, nor baling wire
the undertow of the ocean. I may hallucinate,
but see the men in drenched clothes
as men who saw and saw and refuse to see.

3 Think of being a judge or architect
or trombonist, and do not worry whether
thinking so makes it so. I overhear
two men talking in another room;

I cannot transcribe the conversation
word for word, but know if they are
vexed or depressed, joyful or nostalgic.
An elm leaf floats on a pond.

Look, a child wants to be a cardiologist
then a cartographer, but wanting so
does not make it so. It is not
a question of copying out the Heart Sutra

in your own blood on an alabaster wall.
It is not a question of grief or joy.
But as a fetus grows and grows,
as the autumn moon ripens the grapes,

greed and cruelty and hunger for power
ripen us, enable us to grieve, act,
laugh, shriek, see, see it all as
the water on which the elm leaf floats.

4 Write out the memories of your life
in red-gold disappearing ink, so that it all
dies, no lives. Each word you speak
dies, no lives. Is it all
at once in the mind? I once stepped
on a sea urchin, used a needle to dig out
the purple spines; blood soaked my hands.
But one spine was left, and I carried
it a thousand miles. I saw then
the olive leaves die on the branch,
saw dogs tear flesh off a sheep's corpse.
To live at all is to grieve;
but, once, to have it all at once
is to see a shooting star: shooting star
shooting star.

1 As an archaeologist unearths a mask with opercular teeth
and abalone eyes, someone throws a broken fan and extension
into a dumpster. A point of coincidence exists in the mind

resembling the tension between a denotation and its stretch
of definition: aurora: a luminous phenomenon consisting
of streamers or arches of light appearing in the upper

of a planet's polar regions, caused by the emission of light
from atoms excited by electrons accelerated along the planet's
magnetic field lines. The mind's magnetic field lines.

When the red shimmering in the huge dome of sky stops,
a violet flare is already arcing up and across, while a man
foraging a dumpster in Cleveland finds some celery and
charred fat.

Hunger, angst: the blue shimmer of emotion, water speeding
through a canyon; to see only to know: to wake finding
a lug nut, ticket stub, string, personal card, ink smear, $2.76.

2 A Kwiakiutl wooden dish with a double-headed wolf
is missing from a museum collection. And as

the director checks to see if it was deaccessioned,
a man sitting on a stool under bright lights

shouts: a pachinko ball dropped vertiginously
but struck a chiming ring and ricocheted to the left.

We had no sense that a peony was opening,
that a thousand white buds of a Kyoto camellia

had opened at dusk and had closed at dawn.
When the man steps out of the pachinko parlor,

he will find himself vertiginously dropping
in starless space. When he discovers

that his daughter was cooking over smoking oil
and shrieked in a fatal asthma attack,

he will walk the bright streets in an implosion of grief,
his mind will become an imploding star,

he will know he is searching among bright gold threads
for a black pattern in the weave.

3 Set a string loop into a figure of two diamonds,
four diamonds, one diamond:
as a woman tightens her hand into a fist
and rubs it in a circular motion over her heart,
a bewildered man considering the semantics of set
decides no through-line exists:

to sink the head of a nail below the surface,
to fix as a distinguishing imprint, sign, or appearance,
to incite, put on a fine edge by grinding,
to adjust, adorn, put in motion, make unyielding,
to bend slightly the tooth points of a saw
alternately in opposite directions.

As the woman using her index finger makes
spiral after spiral from her aorta up over her head,
see the possibilities for transcendence:
you have to die and die in your mind
before you can begin to see the empty spaces
the configuration of string defines.

4 A restorer examines the pieces of a tin chandelier,
and notices the breaks in the arms are along
old solder lines, and that cheap epoxy was used.

He will have to scrape off the epoxy, scrub some flux,
heat up the chandelier and use a proper solder.
A pair of rough-legged hawks are circling over a pasture;

one hawk cuts off the rabbit's path of retreat
while the other swoops with sharp angle and curve of wings.
Cirrus, cirrostratus, cirrocumulus, altostratus,

altocumulus, stratocumulus, nimbostratus,
cumlus, cumulonimbus, stratus: is there no end?
Memories stored in the body begin to glow.

A woman seals basil in brown bags and hangs them
from the ceiling. A dead sturgeon washes to shore.
The sun is at the horizon, but another sun

is rippling in water. It's not that the angle
of reflection equals the angle of incidence,
but there's exultation, pleasure, distress, death, love.

5 The world resembles a cuttlefish changing colors
and shimmering. An apprentice archer has

stretched the bowstring properly, but does not know
he will miss the target because he is not aiming in the hips.

He will learn to hit the target without aiming
when he has died in his mind. I am not scared of death,

though I am appalled at how obsession with security
yields a pin-pushing, pencil-shaving existence.

You can descend to the swimming level of sharks,
be a giant kelp growing from the ocean bottom up

to the surface light, but the critical moment
is to die feeling the infinite stillness of the passions,

to revel in the touch of hips, hair, lips, hands,
feel the collapse of space in December light.

When I know I am no longer trying to know the spectral lines
of the earth, I can point to a cuttlefish and say,

"Here it is sepia," already it is deep-brown,
and exult, "Here it is deep-brown," already it is white.

6 Red koi swim toward us, and black
carp are rising out of the depths of the pond,
but our sustenance is a laugh, a grief,

a walk at night in the snow,
seeing the pure gold of a flickering candle -
a moment at dusk when we see

that deer have been staring at us,
we did not see them edge out of the brush,
a moment when someone turns on a light

and turns a window into a mirror,
a moment when a child asks,
"When will it be tomorrow?"

To say "A bell cannot be red and violet
at the same place and time because
of the logical structure of color" is true

but is a dot that must enlarge into
a zero: a void, enso, red shimmer,
breath, endless beginning, pure body, pure mind.

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.

—walking along a ridge of white sand—
it's cooler below the surface—

we stop and, gazing at an expanse
of dunes to the west,
watch a yellow yolk of sun drop to the mountains—

an hour earlier, we rolled down a dune,
white sand flecked your eyelids and hair—

a claret cup cactus blooms,
and soaptree yuccas
move as a dune moves—

so many years later, on a coast, waves rolling to shore,
wave after wave,

I see how our lives have unfolded,
a sheen of
wave after whitening wave—

and we are stepping barefoot,
rolling down a dune, white flecks on our lips,

on our eyelids: we are lying in a warm dune
as a full moon
lifts against an ocean of sky—

A rabbit has stopped on the gravel driveway:

imbibing the silence,
you stare at spruce needles:

there's no sound of a leaf blower,
no sign of a black bear;

a few weeks ago, a buck scraped his rack
against an aspen trunk;
a carpenter scribed a plank along a curved stone wall.

You only spot the rabbit's ears and tail:

when it moves, you locate it against speckled gravel,
but when it stops, it blends in again;

the world of being is like this gravel:

you think you own a car, a house,
this blue-zigzagged shirt, but you just borrow these things.

Yesterday, you constructed an aqueduct of dreams
and stood at Gibraltar,

but you possess nothing.

Snow melts into a pool of clear water;
and, in this stillness,

starlight behind daylight wherever you gaze.

The Best Poem Of Arthur Sze

Spring Snow

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.

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