Adamant

 
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

   

   

Traversal

 
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

  

     

Arthur SzeArthur Sze’s tenth book of poetry, Sight Lines, will be published in early 2019 by Copper Canyon Press. He was recently elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and is a professor emeritus at the Institute of American Indian Arts.
  
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.

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