Arthur Sze has published eleven books of poetry, including Sight Lines (2019), which won the National Book Award, and The Glass Constellation: New and Collected Poems (2021). His other books include Compass Rose (2014), a Pulitzer Prize finalist and The Ginkgo Light (2009), selected for the PEN Southwest Book Award and the Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association Book Award. He has also published one book of Chinese poetry translations, The Silk Dragon (2001), selected for the Western States Book Award, and edited Chinese Writers on Writing (2010). Sze is the recipient of many honors, including the 2022 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for Lifetime Achievement from the Poetry Foundation, the 2021 Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, the Jackson Poetry Prize from Poets & Writers, a Lannan Literary Award, a Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, a Howard Foundation Fellowship, and five grants from the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry. A Chancellor Emeritus at the Academy of American Poets and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he is a professor emeritus at the Institute of American Indian Arts and was the first poet laureate of Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he lives.
Magpies fly from branch to branch. In the slow
tide of the afternoon, you sleep in my arms;
we drift to shore, as sea turtles beach;
the ocean surf breaks; an incoming
wave foams up on sand then subsides.
Stepping into daylight after weeks of smoke,
we smell rain before it begins to rain;
in the open garage, we exude an aroma
of juniper bark, roll a Ping-Pong table
into place, and, lowering the legs, stretch
the net, volley. Sending a white ball
back and forth, back and forth, we sway
in season. Now we stride into a sloping lava tube,
and water drips in the dark. As we emerge
into rain forest, an ‘apapane flits
among branches; sunlight dapples our eyelids;
we follow a path that splits into many
paths as leaves on ‘ōhi‘a trees shimmer.