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Manoa 12.1 (2000) 10-11

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Two Poems

Arthur Sze

Spring Smoke

The minutes ooze into a honeycomb gold.
He reads in a recently discovered notebook
that in 1937 his grandfather refused
to collaborate with the puppet government
and was kidnapped in Shanghai, held
in a smoky loft where he breathed
through a hole in the roof while his captors
unloaded, reloaded revolvers, played
mahjong. He stops to adjust the light,
wonders if the wasp nest lodged on a beam
in the shed is growing. His grandfather
describes a woman who refused to tell
where her husband was until they poured
scalding water down her throat and crushed
her right hand in a vise. He looks up
but cannot see stars through the skylight.
He senses smoky gold notes rising out
of a horn and knows how easy it is
to scald, blister, burst. This morning
when he pulled back a wood slat
to open the gate, he glimpsed a young
pear tree blossoming in the driveway.
Now he stops and, in the gold hush,
is startled to hear his blood circulating. [End Page 10]

The Angle of Incidence

Whatever he sees when awake is death--
she wants a juicy apricot,
or a pen
that writes upside down, under water, in outer space;
he wants a fluted champagne glass,
spiffy sunglasses;
he wants to see the endangered Cloudcroft butterfly
close then open its wings;
under a one-seeded juniper,
dogs sniff an exposed carcass;
he sees a red plastic container
with syringes, needles,
snapped vials;
they feel the warmth of the room when candles burn
surge in their bodies;
he sees that--Shang bronze
in the shape of a boar--
wherever he turns, wherever he looks,
the angle of reflection equals the angle of incidence.

Arthur Sze is a recipient of a 1997 Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writer's Award. His latest book, The Redshifting Web: Poems 1970-1998, received the 1999 Balcones Poetry Prize and the 1999 Asian American Literary Award.



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