Some verses from "Floaters" by Arthur Sze, which was in October 2022's The Atlantic:

we smell rain before it begins to rain;
in the open garage, we exude an aroma
of juniper bark, roll a Ping-Pong table

into place, and, lowering the legs, stretch
the net, volley. Sending a white ball
back and forth, back and forth, we sway

in season. Now we stride into a sloping lava tube,
and water drips in the dark. As we emerge
into rain forest, an ‘apapane flits

Most of the imagery in the poem is nature-related, but then in the middle is this section which is decidedly not. Playing ping-pong in the garage is doing a human thing in the midst of a human thing. What does this scene (~1/3 of the whole poem) contribute to what the surrounding nature-y sections are doing?

1 Answer 1


The ping-pong scene in "Floaters" serves to emphasize the grounding of humanity within nature. By inserting a seemingly human activity into an otherwise naturalistic setting, Sze draws attention to how humans interact with their environment and demonstrates our reliance on it for quality of life. The poem returns to earlier themes as they "exude an aroma/of juniper bark" while playing Ping-Pong; here we see how closely linked are both aspects emphasized by this juxtaposition—nature represented by its flora and fauna, combined with activities associated solely with humanity that occur only when those elements exist together (or, more accurately, integrate). This reinforces the idea that one does not simply passively observe but actively participates in engaging engagements throughout nature, even if unrecognized at first glance or in conscious thought. The activity of playing ping-pong further conveys the ideas of playfulness and frivolity, as well as a physical reciprocity through back-and-forth movement. In conclusion, by weaving together images from nature with human activities such as this ping pong scene in "Floaters," Sze draws our attention to how reliance on the environment branches out beyond simply sustenance but also quality experiences that call for relationship building between both man and the world—where ultimate happiness is found when the two become one collective entity intertwined.

Herein lies an awareness that enjoyment results from harmony that can only be attained through interdependence among all things, which gives a solid foundation for future investigation into man's connection with nature.

Or I am merely too preoccupied with this thought.

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