Arthur Sze "The Silk Road"  

The Silk Road

by Arthur Sze



The blood in your arteries is contaminated with sugar.
You may hate the adrenal reduction of the mind to

the mind of a dog, but sic, run may be forms of sugar.
You may whet for the smell of rain on a clear summer night.

You may whet for the sugar in red maple leaves.
You may whet for the blue needle of a compass to point

north, and when it points north insist you wanted it
to point north-northwest. No, yes. In a dream

you catch a white turtle in a net and a voice says,
"Kill it, divine with it, and you shall have good luck,"

but discard dream structure for a deeper asymmetry.
You thirst in your mind for an insulin, death:

death in the yellow saguaro flower opening at midnight,
death in a canyon wren's song at sunrise,

death in red carp swimming in a clear pool of water,
death in an April moonrise. Now the figure-of-eight knot,

overhand knot, thief knot, loop knot, bowline knot,
slide knot, slipknot, sheepshank is pulled tighter and tighter.



You may stare out of a south window for hours
and feel the April sunlight dissolve the shifting leaves,

and you may dream sunlight opening a red camellia.
You may eat monkey brains and bear paws,

but, out of disordered passions and a disordered mind,
can you construct yellow doors that open in silence into summer?

You may repeat mistake after mistake so that you
will the mistakes into an accelerating spiral of despair.

A turtle pushes onto the sand of Bikini Island,
and, disoriented by radiation, pushes further and further

inland to die; but do not confuse the bones
of a cow bleached in the sun with disordered desire.

You may dream sunlight shining into a cool mountain forest
and wake up inhaling the smell of Douglas fir.

You may dream sea turtles swimming in black water
but wake sunstruck walking in shifting dunes of white sand.

Who can say here, now is metempsychosic delusion?
Can you set out for Turfan today and arrive yesterday at dusk?



A man in a hospital is waiting for a heart transplant.
He may fish at night under the stars with a cool salt wind;

he may soar out over the black shining waters of a bay.
He may want to die with sunlight shining on his face;

he may want to die in a tsunami, but his yes and his no
are a void. He may die as a gray squirrel cracks open an acorn;

he may die as a green terrapin slips into a stream.
As a diabetic shivers and sweats, shivers and sweats,

he feels the moonlight shining on the high tide waters of the bay.
He feels the drone of traffic slip into silence, and then

the trivial, the inconsequential stings him, stings him.
As a child, he said to his father, "That man is weird;

why does he wear a pillow under his pants?" And his father laughed,
"He's fat, so fat." Then, "The Chinese word for onion

is cong, so a green onion is xiao cong, small onion, yes?"
"Yes." "Then a large white onion must be da cong, large

onion, yes?" "No, a large white onion is called yang cong."
"Yang cong?" "Yes." "Which yang?" "The yang that means ocean." "Shit."



The, a, this, the, tangerine, splash, hardly:
these threads of sound may be spun in s-spin into fiber:

lighted buoy, whistling buoy, spar buoy, bell buoy, buoy.
Hear the sounds of apricots dropping from branches to the earth;

feel the red vibration of wings before you see a hummingbird.
A man may travel from Mindanao to Macao to avoid

staring into himself; he may search at night in a helicopter
for the shimmer of a fire opal dropped into water;

he may inhale starlight as if it were a pungent yellow
flower opening slowly in the still August night.

To be still: watch a dog listen to sounds you cannot hear,
feel the pull of moonrise on the feathers of an owl.

There are apricots beginning to drop from branches to the earth;
there are apricots not yet beginning to drop from branches;

there are apricots not yet not yet beginning to drop.



This sand was black and silver shining in the megalight.
Now the radiation is in my hands and in your face.

You may dream red petals on a mountain path in rain;
I may watch the shimmer of light in the yellowing leaves.

Yes and no, spring and autumn have no power without the mind
that wills them into magnetic north, magnetic south.

A merchant from Xi'an brought ceremonial caps to Kuqa,
but the Kuqa people shaved their heads and tattooed their bodies.

To seal a dime in a red envelope and send it to
an insurance salesman is to send anthurium to a cannibal.

The taste of unripe persimmons, and pale moonlight shining
on the black hills appear to have no use: who

would have dreamed they would have become, shibui, an aesthetic?
To argue that you must know the characteristic

that makes all birds birds before you can identify
a bird -- and here you must discard antinomies --

postpones auk to that indeterminate time in the fallout
of the future when you shall have knowledge of the form Death.



Various proofs for the existence of God
try to predicate existence, but being

is unlike yellow, sour, pungent. That a branch
of the linden has yellow and dropping

leaves hardly enables us to infer that
water flowing through the underground karez

into Turfan is about to stop. If
the passions are the music of empty holes,

hear the blue and gold sounds of angst.
As I stared out the south window, I

saw the leaves of the linden green with no hint
of yellow. No. As I stared out the south

window, I wanted to see the yellowing leaves,
but instead saw, reflected in the glass

back through the space of the room
and out another window, salted skates

hanging on a wire to dry. So what I saw
reflected deflected my intention as now I say now.


© 1990 and 1992 by Arthur Sze.

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