Faucets drip, and the night plunges to minus
fifteen degrees. Today you stared at a map
of Africa on a school wall and shook your head
at “Yugoslavia” written along the Adriatic
coast near the top—how many times
are lines drawn and redrawn, and to what end?
This ebony bead yours, that amber one
another's. A coelacanth swims in the depths
off Mozambique and eludes a net; a crystal
layer forms behind your retinas. Today
you saw the long plastic sheet in the furrow
blown, like a shroud, around elm branches.
A V-shaped aquatic grass cutter leans
against the porch, and you ponder how things
get to where they are. A young writer
from Milwaukee who yearned to travel calls—
he’s hiked the Himalayas and frets
at what to do: in Nepal, during civil strife,
he and an Israeli backpacker smoked
and yakked all night in the emptied hotel;
now that the snow is dissolving off Everest,
bodies of climbers and trash are exposed.
A glowing eel in the darkness—anguish.
He clacks the beads, how to live, where to go.
Copyright © by Arthur Sze. Used with the permission of the author.
Born in New York City in 1950, Arthur Sze is the author of nine books of poetry, including Compass Rose (Copper Canyon Press, 2014). He served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2012 to 2017.
Date Published: 2015-04-16
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/strike-slip