Rock Paper Scissors

         Midnight snow swirls in the courtyard—
                 you wake and mark the steel-gray light of dawn,

                           the rhythm in your hands
                           of scissors cutting paper;

         you pull a blade against ribbon,
                    and the ribbon springs into a spiraling curl 
                                        when you release it;

         here, no one pulled a blade against the ribbon of desire,
                  a downy woodpecker drilled into a desiccated pear tree; 

         you consider how paper wraps rock,
                                         scissors snips paper,

         how this game embodies the evolution
                                         of bacteria and antibiotic;

         you can’t see your fingerprints on a door handle,
                   but your smudging,

                                       like trudging footprints in snow,

         track where and how you go—

                             a chrysoprase heart in a box—

         how you look at a series of incidentals
                               and pull an invisible thread through them all.


Copyright © 2021 by Arthur Sze. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 7, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“This poem emerged out of a mysterious seed. I watched snowfall and suddenly had a sensation of scissors cutting paper. In the way that the simple but enduring child’s game connects ‘rock,’ ‘paper,’ and ‘scissors,’ I tried to formally use stanzaic clusters to reveal interlocking configurations of consciousness.”
Arthur Sze