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The Shapes of Leaves

Ginkgo, cottonwood, pin oak, sweet gum, tulip tree:
our emotions resemble leaves and alive
to their shapes we are nourished.
Have you felt the expanse and contours of grief
along the edges of a big Norway maple? Have you winced at the orange flare searing the curves of a curling dogwood? I have seen from the air logged islands, each with a network of branching gravel roads, and felt a moment of pure anger, aspen gold. I have seen sandhill cranes moving in an open field, a single white whooping crane in the flock. And I have traveled along the contours of leaves that have no name. Here where the air is wet and the light is cool, I feel what others are thinking and do not speak, I know pleasure in the veins of a sugar maple, I am living at the edge of a new leaf.

—Arthur Sze

“The Shapes of Leaves” by Arthur Sze from The Redshifting Web: New and Selected Poems.

Copper Canyon Press, 1998.

By permission of the author.

Arthur Sze

Arthur Sze

Arthur Sze (1950- ) was born in New York and educated at the University of California at Berkeley. He the author of eight poetry collections, including The Gingko Light (2009) and is also known for his translations of Chinese poetry. Sze’s many honors include a Lannan Literary Award and an American Book Award. He has received grants and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Witter Bynner Foundation. Photo Credit: Gloria Graham.

Learn more about Arthur Sze at The Poetry Foundation.