Little Ache

By Li-Young Lee b. 1957 Li-Young Lee
That sparrow on the iron railing,
not worth a farthing, purchases a realm
its shrill cries measure, trading
dying for being.

It's up to no good,
out to overturn a kingdom
just by swooping into the right kitchen,
or upsetting somebody's aim.

For my pleasure, I'll call it Good News,
or Little Egypt. For my delight,

I'll think of it as needle and thread.
Or a breathing remnant
restored to a living cloth.
Or scissors
trimming lament
to allow for everything I don't know.
For my happiness, I'll call it
Pocket Dictionary Full of Words in Another Language.

For my gladness, Feathered Interval,
The Deciding Gram, Geronimo.

For nothing, Monument to the Nano.

Source: Poetry (December 2007).


This poem originally appeared in the December 2007 issue of Poetry magazine

December 2007
 Li-Young  Lee


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 Living, Time & Brevity, Nature, Animals

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