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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, November 8, 2016.
About this Poem 

“White Sands, in southern New Mexico, is the site of the world’s largest gypsum dunefield. In summer, the sunlight can be blinding; the temperature can rise to over 100 degrees. At sunset, when the sand is cooling, it is marvelous to walk along a ridge, and I’ve used this physical edge to explore memory and desire.”
—Arthur Sze

White Sands

                —walking along a ridge of white sand—
                                                      it’s cooler below the surface—

                we stop and, gazing at an expanse
                             of dunes to the west,
                                         watch a yellow yolk of sun drop to the                                                        mountains—

                an hour earlier, we rolled down a dune,
                                                         white sand flecked your eyelids                                                                    and hair—

                a claret cup cactus blooms,
                                          and soaptree yuccas
                                                                      move as a dune moves—

                so many years later, on a coast, waves rolling to shore,
                                          wave after wave,

                I see how our lives have unfolded,
                                          a sheen of
                                                        wave after whitening wave—

                and we are stepping barefoot,
                              rolling down a dune, white flecks on our lips,

                on our eyelids: we are lying in a warm dune
                                                         as a full moon 
                                                                                  lifts against an                                                                                                  ocean of sky—

 

Copyright © 2016 by Arthur Sze. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 8, 2016, this poem was commissioned by the Academy of American Poets and funded by a National Endowment for the Arts Imagine Your Parks grant.

Copyright © 2016 by Arthur Sze. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 8, 2016, this poem was commissioned by the Academy of American Poets and funded by a National Endowment for the Arts Imagine Your Parks grant.

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 served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2012 to 2017.

by this poet

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Faucets drip, and the night plunges to minus
     fifteen degrees. Today you stared at a map
of Africa on a school wall and shook your head
     at “Yugoslavia” written along the Adriatic
coast near the top—how many times
     are lines drawn and redrawn, and to what end?

This ebony

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poem

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,

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