Nocturne

By Li-Young Lee b. 1957 Li-Young Lee
That scraping of iron on iron when the wind   
rises, what is it? Something the wind won’t   
quit with, but drags back and forth.
Sometimes faint, far, then suddenly, close, just   
beyond the screened door, as if someone there   
squats in the dark honing his wares against   
my threshold. Half steel wire, half metal wing,   
nothing and anything might make this noise   
of saws and rasps, a creaking and groaning
of bone-growth, or body-death, marriages of rust,   
or ore abraded. Tonight, something bows
that should not bend. Something stiffens that should   
slide. Something, loose and not right,   
rakes or forges itself all night.

Li-Young Lee, “Nocturne” 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)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Li-Young Lee b. 1957

Subjects Ghosts & the Supernatural, Mythology & Folklore

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Li-Young  Lee

Biography

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 . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Ghosts & the Supernatural, Mythology & Folklore

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.