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


Sleepers

A black-chinned hummingbird lands 
on a metal wire and rests for five seconds; 
for five seconds, a pianist lowers his head 
and rests his hands on the keys; 

a man bathes where irrigation water 
forms a pool before it drains into the river;
a mechanic untwists a plug, and engine oil 
drains into a bucket; for five seconds, 

I smell peppermint through an open window,
recall where a wild leaf grazed your skin;
here touch comes before sight; holding you, 
I recall, across a canal, the sounds of men 

laying cuttlefish on ice at first light;
before first light, physical contact, 
our hearts beating, patter of female rain 
on the roof; as the hummingbird 

whirrs out of sight, the gears of a clock 
mesh at varying speeds; we hear 
a series of ostinato notes and are not tied
to our bodies’ weight on earth.

Credit


Copyright © 2019 by Arthur Sze. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 16, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem


“One morning I saw a black-chinned hummingbird land on a metal wire and stay there for a long time. In that interval, the speaker of the poem moves from northern New Mexico to Venice, Italy, then back to New Mexico. I don’t know how the poem wrote itself, but I trusted the spell.”
—Arthur Sze

Author


Arthur Sze

Arthur Sze is the author of eleven books of poetry, including The Glass Constellation (Copper Canyon Press, 2021). He served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2012 to 2017.

Date Published: 2019-07-16

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/sleepers-0