2019 National Book Award Finalist for Poetry
From the current phenomenon of drawing calligraphy with water in public parks in China to Thomas Jefferson laying out dinosaur bones on the White House floor, from the last sighting of the axolotl to a man who stops building plutonium triggers, Sight Lines moves through space and time and brings the disparate and divergent into stunning and meaningful focus. In this new work, Arthur Sze employs a wide range of voicesfrom lichen on a ceiling to a man behind on his rentand his mythic imagination continually evokes how humans are endangering the planet; yet, balancing rigor with passion, he seizes the significant and luminous and transforms these moments into riveting and enduring poetry.
|Publisher:||Copper Canyon Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.40(w) x 9.50(h) x 0.40(d)|
About the Author
Arthur Sze is a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a National Book Award winner, and recipient of fellowships from Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Read an Excerpt
Deer browse at sunrise in an apple orchard,
while honey locust leaves litter the walk.
A neighbor hears gunshots in the bosque
and wonders who's firing at close range;
I spot bear prints near the Pojoaque River
but see no sign of the reported mountain lion.
As chlorophyll slips into the roots of a cottonwood
and the leaves burst into yellow gold, I wonder,
where's our mortal flare? You can travel
to where the Tigris and Euphrates flow together
and admire the inventions of people living
on floating islands of reeds; you can travel
along an archipelago and hike among volcanic
pools steaming with water and sulfuric acid;
but you can't change the eventual, adamant body.
Though death might not come like a curare-
dipped dart blown out of a tube or slam
at you like surf breaking over black lava rock,
it will comeit will comeand it unites us
brother, sister, boxer, spinnerin this pact,
while you inscribe a letter with trembling hand.
Porch light illuminating white steps, light
over a garage door, darkness inside windows
and the darkness exposes the tenuous.
A glass blower shapes a rearing horse
that shifts, on a stand, from glowing orange
to glistening crystal; suddenly the horse
shatters into legs, head, body, mane.
At midnight, “Fucking idiot!” a woman yells,
shaking the house; along a hedge,
a man sleeps, coat over head, legs sticking out;
and, at 8 am, morning glories open
on a fence; a backhoe heads up the street.
From this window, he views banana leaves,
an orange tree with five oranges, house
with shingled roofs, and steps leading
to an upstairs apartment; farther off, palm trees,
and, beyond, a sloping street, ocean, sky;
but what line of sight leads to revelation?
Green tips of tulips are rising out of the earth
you don’t flense a whale or fire at beer cans
in an arroyo but catch the budding
tips of pear branches and wonder what
it’s like to live along a purling edge of spring.
Jefferson once tried to assemble a mastodon
skeleton on the White House floor but,
with pieces missing, failed to sequence the bones;
when the last speaker of a language dies,
a hue vanishes from the spectrum of visible light.
Last night, you sped past revolving and flashing
red, blue, and white lights along the road
a wildfire in the dark; though no one
you knew was taken in the midnight ambulance,
an arrow struck a bull’s eye and quivered
in its shaft: one minute gratitude rises
like water from an underground lake,
another dissolution gnaws from a black center.