Cynthia Arrieu-King teaches at Stockton College in New Jersey and is a former Kundiman fellow. Her books include The Small Anything City (Dream Horse Press 2006), People are Tiny in Paintings of China (2010), Manifest (Switchback 2013), and By Some Miracle a Year Lousy With Meteors (Dream Horse Press, 2013) written with Ariana-Sophia Kartsonis. She grew up in Louisville, Kentucky and lives on the East Coast.
As I read I had the feeling of launching myself from an opening line and falling past gorgeous and complex surfaces, and intricate landscape of experience, until landing on the solid earth of the final lines of these extraordinary poems.
PEOPLE ARE TINY IN PAINTINGS OF CHINA
They say the mountains aren’t made of rocks
but someone’s back broken up.
The paths fast like slides that chute down, or slow, like impossibility, up.
If the people each wear tiny helmets,
the thing that makes each person tiny still looms,
but it will find it harder to crush them.
Jade waters course through the minuscule veins of the figures.
They pull up straw. Fish for dinner. Raise one
ankle in the manner of a petaled float.
It is hard to tell water and pigment from air and flesh.
Up in the sky,
birds cross and linger into words.
Nothing like the conversation of gods.
Nothing like a conversation of a black forest of skeletons into salt.
Riding too fast down a real mountain,
a truck of shale risks a spill
next to a crowd of lean people:
The rocks ride fast around the mountain, slogging,
grinding together in a loud shiver.
The truck streaks bue, ready to crash, but the blue
is not a blue found in the painting.
They say the mountains are slow and full of snow.
And can hide almost anything.