Arthur Sze

Glimmer Train | Strike-Slip
June 9, 2012 Sze Arthur

Glimmer Train


Redwinged blackbirds in the cattail pond—

today I kicked an elk hoof off the path,

read that armadillo eaters can catch

leprosy, but who eats armadillo and eats

it rare? Last night you wrote that, walking

to the stables, you glimpsed horses at twilight

in a field. We walk barefoot up a ridge

and roll down a dune; sip raki, savor

shish kebab and yogurt in an arcade.

Once we pored over divination lines incised

into tortoise shells, and once we stepped

through the keyhole entry into a garden

with pools of glimmering water. In the gaps

between my words, peonies rise through hoops

behind our bedroom—peonies are indeed

rising through hoops behind our bedroom—

you comb your hair at the sink as they unfold.





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 bead yours, that amber one

another’s. A coelacanth swims in the depths

off Mozambique and eludes a net; a crystal

layer forms behind your retinas. Today

you saw the long plastic sheet in the furrow

blown, like a shroud, around elm branches.


A v-shaped aquatic grass cutter leans

against the porch, and you ponder how things

get to where they are. A young writer

from Milwaukee who yearned to travel calls—

he’s hiked the Himalayas and frets

at what to do: in Nepal, during civil strife,


he and an Israeli backpacker smoked

and yakked all night in the emptied hotel;

now that the snow is dissolving off Everest,

bodies of climbers and trash are exposed.

A glowing eel in the darkness—anguish.

He clacks the beads, how to live, where to go.

Arthur Sze’s eleventh book of poetry, The Glass Constellation: New and Collected Poems (Copper Canyon, 2021)
received a 2024 National Book Foundation Science + Literature Award. His new book, The Silk Dragon II: Translations
of Chinese Poetry
, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon in April.