Little Father

By Li-Young Lee b. 1957 Li-Young Lee
I buried my father
in the sky.
Since then, the birds
clean and comb him every morning   
and pull the blanket up to his chin   
every night.

I buried my father underground.   
Since then, my ladders
only climb down,
and all the earth has become a house   
whose rooms are the hours, whose doors   
stand open at evening, receiving   
guest after guest.
Sometimes I see past them
to the tables spread for a wedding feast.

I buried my father in my heart.
Now he grows in me, my strange son,   
my little root who won’t drink milk,   
little pale foot sunk in unheard-of night,   
little clock spring newly wet
in the fire, little grape, parent to the future   
wine, a son the fruit of his own son,   
little father I ransom with my life.

Li-Young Lee, “Little Father” from Book of My Nights. Copyright © 2001 by Li-Young Lee. Reprinted with the permission of BOA Editions, Ltd., www.boaeditions.org.

Source: Book of My Nights (BOA Editions Ltd., 2003)

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Poet Li-Young Lee b. 1957

Subjects Family & Ancestors, Relationships, Living, Sorrow & Grieving, Death

Occasions Funerals

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 . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Family & Ancestors, Relationships, Living, Sorrow & Grieving, Death

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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