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.