His lens misses her,Or from "Written The Day I Was To Begin A Residency at The State Penitentiary"
the leaves cast double reflections
on the glass. The one
is his shadow; as he leans up
he discovers a new perspective...
Inmates put an acetylene torch to another inmate's face,and later:
seared out his eyes.
I tell myself to be open to all experience,and finally:
to take what is ugly and find something nourishing in it...
I figure their chances, without people caring,which aligns the narrator in a way with the reader, but doesn't dislocate the meaning, nor offer a kind of congratulatory "aha" moment.
are 'an ice cube's chance in hell.'
The poem sequence "The Leaves Of A Dream Are The Leaves Of An Onion", is wonderful. The second poem begins with the line "A Galapagos turtle has nothing to do/with the world of the neutrino" and ends with a line about a man throwing a molotov cocktail having everything to do with a sunflower bending towrad the light. A sense of hopeful connection is everywhere in Sze's work. But by the time we get to "Archipelago," the newer work dated 1995, there are enormous gaps in the text, like delicious springs of water:
True or false:and in another section,
termites release methane and add to the greenhouse effect;
the skin of a blowfish is lethal;
a flayed elephant skin;what we are witness to here is the pulling, scraping, seeing, movement of self on earth, the attempt to connect and acceptance of disconnect, not embracing, noticing. As Tony Barnstone points out in Rain Taxi, Archipelago is Sze's "breakthrough book", the moment where his work reaches its "developmental arc." And as a translator of Chinese poetry, and a Chinese American, Sze is steeped in meditative poetry, so his minimalist project makes sense.
she stir-fries tea leaves in a wok.
But I go by my gut reaction, and this is mine: as the collection proceeds I find myself feeling more and more hopeful, more and more light in my step as the poems become more serious in a way and focused. I suspect this has something to do with the gaps. Room to elbow in and peer into the eye of a dragonfly myself, perhaps?