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About this Poem 

“I’ve never written a poem about the act of composing a poem before, but early one morning this poem happened to do that. As an old compass may have a magnetized needle that pivots back and forth until it stops at north, the speaker sifts through observations to still at something unrecognized before.”

—Arthur Sze

Stilling to North

Arthur Sze, 1950

Just as a blue tip of a compass needle
stills to north, you stare at a pencil

with sharpened point, a small soapstone
bear with a tiny chunk of turquoise

tied to its back, the random pattern
of straw flecked in an adobe wall;

you peruse the silver poplar branches,
the spaces between branches, and as

a cursor blinks, situate at the edge
of loss—the axolotl was last sighted

in Xochimilco over twenty years ago;
a jaguar meanders through tawny

brush in the Gila Wilderness—
and, as the cursor blinks, you guess

it’s a bit of line that arcs—a parsec
made visible—and as you sit,

the imperfections that mark you
attune you to a small emptied flask

tossed to the roadside and the x,
never brewed, that throbs in your veins.

Copyright @ 2014 by Arthur Sze. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on June 4, 2014.

Copyright @ 2014 by Arthur Sze. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on June 4, 2014.

Arthur Sze

Arthur Sze

Born in New York City in 1950, Arthur Sze is a second-generation

by this poet

poem
Redwinged blackbirds in the cattail pond—
today I kicked and flipped a wing 
in the sand and saw it was a sheared 
off flicker's. Yesterday's rain has left 
			
snow on Tesuque Peak, and the river 
will widen then dwindle. We step 
into a house and notice antlers mounted 
on the wall behind us; a ten-day-old
poem
Slanting light casts onto a stucco wall
the shadows of upwardly zigzagging plum branches.

I can see the thinning of branches to the very twig.
I have to sift what you say, what she thinks,

what he believes is genetic strength, what
they agree is inevitable. I have to sift this

quirky and lashing stillness of
poem
Comet Hyakutake's tail stretches for 360 million miles—

in 1996, we saw Hyakutake through binoculars—

the ion tail contains the time we saw bats emerge out of a cavern at dusk—

in the cavern, we first heard stalactites dripping—

first silence, then reverberating sound—

our touch reverberates and makes a