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Recorded at the Chancellors Reading, Poets Forum, New York City, 2014
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 the author of nine books of poetry, including Compass Rose (Copper Canyon Press, 2014). He currently serves as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

by this poet

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I gaze at the Pacific and don’t expect
to ever see the heads on Easter Island,

though I guess at sunlight rippling
the yellow grasses sloping to shore;

yesterday a doe ate grass in the orchard:
it lifted its ears and stopped eating

when it sensed us watching from
a glass

poem

                A rabbit has stopped on the gravel driveway:

                           imbibing the silence,
                           you stare at spruce needles:

                                                  there’s no sound of a leaf blower,

2
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