Deer browse at sunrise in an apple orchard,
while honey locust leaves litter the walk.
A neighbor hears gunshots in the bosque
and wonders who’s firing at close range;
I spot bear prints near the Pojoaque River
but see no sign of the reported mountain lion.
As chlorophyll slips into the roots of a cottonwood
and the leaves burst into yellow gold, I wonder,
where’s our mortal flare? You can travel
to where the Tigris and Euphrates flow together
and admire the inventions of people living
on floating islands of reeds; you can travel
along an archipelago and hike among volcanic
pools steaming with water and sulfuric acid;
but you can’t change the eventual, adamant body.
Though death might not come like a curare-
dipped dart blown out of a tube or slam
at you like surf breaking over black lava rock,
it will come—it will come—and it unites us—
brother, sister, boxer, spinner—in this pact,
while you inscribe a letter with trembling hand.
— Originally published in Poet Lore
At dawn you dip oars in water, row out
on a lake—the oar locks creak—and, drifting,
inhale the pines along the shore. A woman
puts water in a pot, lights a stove: before
it steams, she looks out at the glimmering:
between two points, we traverse an infinite set
of paths: here we round a bend in an arroyo
and stumble onto two sheep carcasses;
here peonies and ranunculus unfold in a vase.
The day has the tensile strength of silk:
you card the hours, spin them, dip
the skeins in a dye pot, and grief or anger,
pleasure or elation’s the mordant that fixes
the hue. You find yourself stepping
through a T-shaped doorway: the niches
in a circular ruin mark the sun’s motion;
a woman fries potatoes in a pan and finds,
in the night, mice have slipped through
a hole under the sink and nibbled soap
in a dish; a returning hunter pulls a screen
latch but, hearing a rattlesnake inside,
slams it, stares through the vibrating mesh.
— Originally published in The Hollins Critic
Read Terrain.org’s interview with Arthur Sze.
Header photo of New Mexico’s Bosque del Apache by Simmons B. Buntin. Photo of Arthur Sze by Brian Palmer.