Friday, September 18, 2015

Poetry Friday: Arthur Sze's The Shapes of Leaves

This is a poignant poem, and the way it touches on grief touches me deeply this week on a dreary autumn day in Nebraska. 

We seem surrounded by grief and sadness lately -- miscarriages among friends, the death of an old friend (he was the best man at our wedding, a former professor of ours, an amazing human being), and other losses -- some peripheral, some not. I think grief leaves me grasping for control -- control over things I am not in control of. 

Arthur Sze does something stunning with this poem. He gives voice to autumn, autumn as I have always felt it, loved it. 

And in the end, there is an upsweep of hope, like spring, like faith, like the clean, sweet scent of the air after a rain. 

The Shapes of Leaves 
by Arthur Sze

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

(Read the rest here, at


Photo courtesy of Free Images


Tricia said...

Love and understand "the expanse and contours of grief." Thank you for introducing me to this poem so filled with emotion.

Tabatha said...

I'm sorry for the losses that have touched you lately, Karen. In times like those, we need that revival, those new leaves, that air after a rain. Hugs.

jama said...

Sorry to hear about the recent losses -- sometimes only a poem can give voice to our grief and sadness. There is something so beautiful and sad about Autumn -- it's my favorite season despite the feelings of reckoning and regret. Thanks for introducing me to this poet!

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

I'm sorry to hear you've been dealing with so much sadness lately, Karen. I can certainly understand drawing on this poem for comfort. "I know pleasure in the veins of a sugar maple,/I am living at the edge of a new leaf." So inspiring!

Linda Baie said...

Several former colleagues have had a loss recently. I know what you mean, Karen, always hard to hear, want to offer comfort as I can. What a lovely poem you've found that touches our grief. I had the pleasure of seeing a whooping crane once, still remember and hope that they are thriving a bit more. I'm glad that the final stanza offers hope: "I am living at the edge of a new leaf." Thank you.

Gathering Books said...

It was only last year that I experienced the loss of a very close relative. It took a while for me to process grief, to understand that while I could move on there would always be a piece of me that would be missing. I am sorry to hear of all the sadness and loss you have to deal with. This poem is beautiful and poignant. I could imagine the edge of the leaves and the feeling of fall, how beautiful it captures grief. thank you for sharing this.

Karen Edmisten said...

Thank you, all of you, for sharing this poem with me, and for your kind expressions of sympathy. I love my Poetry Friday people. :)

Tricia, I'm happy to introduce you, esp. since I just made the acquaintance myself. I'll be looking for more of Sza's poetry.
Tabatha, thanks for the hugs.
Jama, it's my favorite season, too, and I love the way you put it: "...despite the feelings of reckoning and regret."
Michelle, I love the inspiring ending, too.
Linda, my sympathies, to your colleagues, too, and long live whooping cranes!
Myra, I am so sorry for the loss of your relative. Hugs to you!

Ruth said...

Yes, grief has the same effect on me. Writing helps some, sometimes. It feels as though I can shape what I am feeling into something new. I LOVE this poem. Thanks for sharing it.

Karen Edmisten said...

You're most welcome, Ruth, and yes, I find, too, that writing about grief (or anything I'm wading through) can help so much.