Leafless

Arthur Sze

Sunlight strikes the leafless aspen branches,

strikes the white picket fence, and as I

look at highlighted edges, my eyes sting.

Tufted grass stalks sway in the flooding rays,

and, in the poinsettia of this hour, I need

some darkness to bloom: in this space

a snow leopard leaps among rocks,

the rosettes of its fur a moving landscape;

its hunger scents the air. As I exhale,

a blue-throated hillstar sips from a Chuquiragua

flower, a fly agaric pushes out of soil,

a raccoon scampers backward down an elm—

we are always running from and lunging to;

when we stop, the eagle feather

of this pause blesses. Before light

of the shortest day lifts to the hills,

it runs across my line of sight in widening gold.

Arthur Sze is the author, most recently, of The Glass Constellation: New and Collected Poems. A new collection, The Silk Dragon II: Translations of Chinese Poetry, is forthcoming.
Originally published:
December 20, 2023

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