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An interview with Arthur Sze in Summer 2001


To order books at bn.com by Arthur Sze

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The photo of Arthur Sze was taken by Daryl Black. All rights reserved.


Arthur Sze Arthur Sze


Earthstar

Opening the screen door, you find a fat spider
poised at the threshold. When I swat it,

hundreds of tiny crawling spiders burst out.
What space in the mind bursts into waves

of wriggling light? As we round a bend,
a gibbous moon burnishes lava rocks and waves.

A wild boar steps into the road, and around
another bend, a mongoose darts across our headlights.

As spokes to a hub, the very far converges
to the very near. A row of Siberian irises

buds and blooms in the yard behind our bedroom.
A moth flutters against a screen and sets

off a light. I had no idea carded wool spun
into yarn could be dipped and oxidized into bliss.

Once, hunting for chanterelles in a meadow,
I flushed quail out of the brush. Now

you step on an unexpected earthstar, and it
bursts in a cloud of brown spores into June light.


The Angle of Incidence

Whatever he sees when awake is death—

she wants a juicy apricot,
or a pen
that writes upside down, under water, in outer space;

he wants a fluted champagne glass,
spiffy sunglasses;

he wants to see the endangered Cloudcroft butterfly
close then open its wings;

under a one-seeded juniper,
dogs sniff an exposed carcass;

he sees a red plastic container
with syringes, needles,
snapped vials;

they feel the warmth of the room when candles burn
surge in their bodies;

he sees that—Shang bronze
in the shape of a boar—
wherever he turns, wherever he looks,

the angle of reflection equals the angle of incidence.


Spring Smoke

The minutes ooze into a honeycomb gold.
He reads in a recently discovered notebook
that in 1941 his grandfather refused

to collaborate with the puppet government
and was kidnapped in Shanghai, held
in a smoky loft where he breathed

through a hole in the roof while his captors
unloaded, reloaded, revolvers, played
mahjong. He stops to adjust the light,

wonders if the wasp nest lodged on a beam
in the shed is growing. His grandfather
describes a woman who refused to tell

where her husband was until they poured
scalding water down her throat and crushed
her right hand in a vise. He looks up

but cannot see stars through the skylight.
He senses smoky gold notes rising out
of a horn and knows how easy it is

to scald, blister, burst. This morning
when he pulled back a wood slat
to open a gate, he glimpsed a young

pear tree blossoming in the driveway.
Now he stops and, in the gold hush,
is startled to hear his blood circulating.