Back to top

Sight Lines

Arthur Sze
I'm walking in sight of the Río Nambé—
salt cedar rises through silt in an irrigation ditch—
the snowpack in the Sangre de Cristos has already dwindled before spring—
at least no fires erupt in the conifers above Los Alamos—
the plutonium waste has been hauled to an underground site—
a man who built plutonium triggers breeds horses now—
no one could anticipate this distance from Monticello—
Jefferson despised newspapers, but no one thing takes us out of ourselves—
during the Cultural Revolution, a boy saw his mother shot by a firing squad—
a woman detonates when a spam text triggers bombs strapped to her body—
when I come to an upright circular steel lid, I step out of the ditch—
I step out of the ditch but step deeper into myself—
I arrive at a space that no longer needs autumn or spring—
I find ginseng where there is no ginseng my talisman of desire—
though you are visiting Paris, you are here at my fingertips—
though I step back into the ditch, no whitening cloud dispels this world's mystery—
the ditch ran before the year of the Louisiana Purchase—
I'm walking on silt, glimpsing horses in the field—
fielding the shapes of our bodies in white sand—
though parallel lines touch in the infinite, the infinite is here—
Madison Poet Laureate, writer, editor, activist and humanist
Why I chose this poem: 

Arthur Sze taught at IAIA. He taught many of my poetry mentors at IAIA while they were undergraduates. In this way I too have been influenced by Arthur Sze. His poetry, his poetry, wow, what can I say. Read it. Live it. Breathe it. I have lines of his poems on my refrigerator and as I make my morning tea or coffee I gaze at them. I had the opportunity to hear him read at AWP in Portland in 2019. I asked him to sign my book and thanked him for his poetry, and for teaching my mentors who in turn shared his gifts with me.

Angie Trudell Vasquez (Mexican-American 2nd & 3rd generation Iowan) holds a Master of Fine Arts in Poetry from the Institute of American Indian Arts. Her work has been published in Taos Journal of PoetryYellow Medicine Review, Raven ChroniclesThe RumpusCloudthroat, and the South Florida Poetry Journal. She has poems on the Poetry Foundation’s website, and was a Ruth Lilly fellow as an undergraduate at Drake University. Her third collection of poetry, In Light, Always Light, was released by Finishing Line Press in May 2019. She co-guest edited the Spring 2019 edition of the Yellow Medicine Review. She serves on the Wisconsin State Poet Laureate Commission, and currently lives in Madison, Wisconsin. On January 20, 2020 she became Madison’s newest Poet Laureate.

Find this poem in: 
Cover of Sight Lines