Morning Antlers

Arthur Sze - 1950-
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.

More by Arthur Sze

Slanting Light

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

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.

The Shapes of Leaves

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.

Related Poems

Light By Which I Read

One does not turn to the rose for shade, nor the charred song of the 
      redwing for solace.
This past I patch with words is a flaw in the silvering, 
                                                         memory seen 
        through to.
There I find the shallow autumn waters, the three stolen pears,
The horizon edged with chalk, loose where the fabric frayed.
Each yesterday glacier-scored, each a dark passage illumined by a 
       honeycomb.

                                  *

I begin to fathom the brittle intricacy of the window’s scrim of ice.
For years, I managed without memory—stalled, unnumbered, 
       abridged— 
No more alive than a dismembered saint enthroned in two hundred 
       reliquaries.
Now, it is hard not to say I remember, 
                                      hard, in fact, not to remember.
Now, I hear the filament’s quiver, its annoying high frequency, light 
       by which I read.

                                  *

River mist, mudbanks, and rushes mediate the dark matter 
Between two tomorrows: 
                      one an archive of chance effects, 
The other a necropolis of momentary appearances and sensations.
One, a stain of green, where a second wash bleeds into the first.
The other time-bound, fecund, slick with early rain.

                                  *

As if to impose a final hermeneutic, all at once the cicadas wind down.
The gooseberry bush looms like a moon: each berry taut, sour, aglow.
The creek runs tar in the cloud-light, mercury at dusk.
Then the frogs start up. 
                        Clay-cold at the marrow. A hollow pulse-tick.
And it seems, at last, I’ve shed my scorched and papery husk.