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

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: 2019-07-16

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