American Poetry, Poetry

Arthur Sze – First Snow

“You only spot the rabbit’s ears and tail:
when it moves, you locate it against speckled gravel,
but when it stops, it blends in again”
Arthur Sze

Arthur Sze’s postmodern poetic style includes elements of Taoist and Zen philosophy written in a deeply observational style. Influenced by William Carlos Williams and Chinese poets like Bei Dao, Arthur Sze’s work can be a difficult but rewarding read. This poem, First Snow, is one of his more accessible ones: suspended in silence from the start, the poem describes transience and the things that are ungraspable: glimpses of movement, flashes of insight – a fleeting look at a rabbit’s ears and tail set against another image of slow-melting snow.

First Snow

A rabbit has stopped on the gravel driveway:

           imbibing the silence,
           you stare at spruce needles:


                                          there's no sound of a leaf blower, 
                                          no sign of a black bear;


a few weeks ago, a buck scraped his rack
           against an aspen trunk;
           a carpenter scribed a plank along a curved stone wall.


                        You only spot the rabbit's ears and tail:


when it moves, you locate it against speckled gravel,
but when it stops, it blends in again


           the world of being is like this gravel:


                        you think you own a car, a house,
                        this blue-zigzagged shirt, but you just borrow these things. 


Yesterday, you constructed an aqueduct of dreams
                        and stood at Gibraltar,
                                                but you possess nothing.


Snow melts into a pool of clear water;
     and, in this stillness,


                        starlight behind daylight wherever you gaze. 

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