An interview with Arthur Sze in Summer 2001

To order books at bn.com by Arthur Sze


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

Arthur Sze Arthur Sze


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.