Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


Strike-Slip

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.

Credit


Copyright © by Arthur Sze. Used with the permission of the author.

Author


Arthur Sze

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