Red chiles in a tilted basket catch sunlight —we walk past a pile of burning mulberry leavesinto Xidi Village, enter a courtyard, noticean inkstone, engraved with calligraphy, filledwith water and cassia petals, smell Mingdynasty redwood panels. As a musician liftsa small xun to his mouth and blows, I see kiwishanging from branches above a moon doorway:a grandmother, once the youngest concubine,propped in a chair with bandages aroundher knees, complains of incessant pain;someone spits in the street. As a secondmusician plucks strings on a zither, pomelosblacken on branches; a woman peels chestnuts;two men in a flat-bottomed boat gatherduckweed out of a river. The notes splash,silvery, onto cobblestone, and my fingerssuddenly ache: during the Cultural Revolution,my aunt’s husband leapt out of a third-storywindow; at dawn I mistook the cries ofbirds for rain. When the musicians pause,Yellow Mountain pines sway near BrightSummit Peak; a pig scuffles behind an enclosure;someone blows his nose. Traces of the pastare wisps of mulberry smoke rising aboveroof tiles; and before we, too, vanish, we hiketo where three trails converge: hundredsof people are stopped ahead of us, hundredscome up behind: we form a rivulet of peoplefunneling down through a chasm in the granite.
by Arthur Sze
© Arthur Sze, 2009
Arthur Sze was born in New York City and graduated
Phi Beta Kappa from the University of California at Berkeley. Professor
Emeritus at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, he has
conducted residencies at a number of different universities in the
United States including Brown University, the University of Utah, and
Washington University. He has been the recipient of a Guggenheim
Fellowship and an American Book Award, and has received grants from the
Witter Bynner Foundation. Sze was the first poet laureate of Santa Fe,
where he lives with his wife, Carol Moldaw, and daughter, Sarah. You can
read a recent interview with Arthur Sze here.
A temple near the hypocenter of the atomic blast at Hiroshima was
disintegrated, but its ginkgo tree survived to bud and bloom. In his
ninth book of poetry, The Gingko Light (Copper Canyon Press,
2009), from which 'Pig's Heaven Inn' comes, Arthur Sze extends this
metaphor of survival and flowering to transform the world’s factual
darkness into precarious splendour. He ingeniously integrates the
world’s mundane and miraculous into a moving, visionary journey. More
poems from this collection are available to read here.
Copper Canyon Press is a non-profit publisher that
believes poetry is vital to language and living. For thirty-five years,
the Press has fostered the work of emerging, established, and
world-renowned poets for an expanding audience. To find out more about
Copper Canyon and its publications, click here.
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