The Sunday Poem: Arthur Sze... Pig's Heaven Inn

Arthur Sze, who has traveled extensively in Asia, wrote "Pig's Heaven Inn," after hiking with a group of Chinese poets in the Yellow Mountains of China in 2007. He is the author of nine books of poetry including The Ginkgo Light, published by Copper Canyon Press in May 2009. Arthur also taught at the Institute of American Indian Arts for twenty-two years years and served as the first poet laureate of Santa Fe from 2006-08. He will be reading in Albuquerque at 3 pm on Sunday June 28th, 2009, at Acequia Booksellers. The bookstore is at 4019 4th St. SW and admission for the reading is free. (Cropped image above from a photo by Mariana Cook.)


Red chiles in a tilted basket catch sunlight—
we walk past a pile of burning mulberry leaves
into Xidi village, enter a courtyard, notice
an inkstone, engraved with calligraphy, filled
with water and cassia petals, smell Ming
dynasty redwood panels. As a musician lifts
a small xun to his mouth and blows, I see kiwis
hanging from branches above a moon doorway:
a grandmother, once the youngest concubine,
propped in a chair with bandages around
her knees, complains of incessant pain;
someone spits in the street. As a second
musician plucks strings on a zither, pomelos
blacken on branches; a woman peels chestnuts;
two men in a flat-bottomed boat gather
duckweed out of a river. The notes splash,
silvery, onto cobblestone, and my fingers
suddenly ache: during the Cultural Revolution,
my aunt’s husband leapt out of a third-story
window; at dawn I mistook the cries of
birds for rain. When the musicians pause,
Yellow Mountain pines sway near Bright
Summit Peak; a pig scuffles behind an enclosure;
someone blows his nose. Traces of the past
are wisps of mulberry smoke rising above
roof tiles; and before we too vanish, we hike
to where three trails converge: hundreds
of people are stopped ahead of us, hundreds
come up behind: we form a rivulet of people
funneling down through a chasm in the granite.

From The Ginkgo Light (Copper Canyon Press, 2009)

(Submissions to the Sunday Poem always welcome. Write )

Views: 36

Comment by Ben Moffett on June 21, 2009 at 3:30pm
Well done. Forgive my off-message take here, but I can't help but notice the likeness to Robert Frost's words in "The Road Not Taken" where "two trails converge." Robert had the option to take the one less traveled. Here no one apparently can find such a lonely path in "a rivulet of people funneling down through a chasm in the granite."
Comment by Margaret Randall on July 13, 2009 at 8:24am
Arthur, this is a wonderful poem. So much noticing, which awakens my own senses as I read. And the way you move us through place and space opens all sorts of doors. Bravo!


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