Falling: The Code

By Li-Young Lee b. 1957 Li-Young Lee
1.
Through the night   
the apples
outside my window   
one by one let go   
their branches and   
drop to the lawn.
I can’t see, but hear
the stem-snap, the plummet
through leaves, then
the final thump against the ground.

Sometimes two   
at once, or one   
right after another.
During long moments of silence
I wait
and wonder about the bruised bodies,   
the terror of diving through air, and   
think I’ll go tomorrow
to find the newly fallen, but they
all look alike lying there
dewsoaked, disappearing before me.

2.
I lie beneath my window listening   
to the sound of apples dropping in

the yard, a syncopated code I long to know,
which continues even as I sleep, and dream I know

the meaning of what I hear, each dull   
thud of unseen apple-

body, the earth   
falling to earth

once and forever, over   
and over.


Li-Young Lee, “Falling: The Code” from Rose. Copyright © 1986 by Li-Young Lee. Reprinted with the permission of BOA Editions Ltd., www.boaeditions.org.

Source: Rose (BOA Editions Ltd., 1986)

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Poet Li-Young Lee b. 1957

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Li-Young Lee was born in Djakarta, Indonesia in 1957 to Chinese political exiles. Both of Lee’s parents came from powerful Chinese families: Lee’s great grandfather was the first president of the Republic of China, and Lee’s father had been the personal physician to Mao Tse-tsung. In Indonesia, Dr. Lee helped found Gamaliel University. Anti-Chinese sentiment began to foment in Indonesia, however, and Lee’s father was arrested . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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