it is the voice of a woman reading out loud

Am really digging Li Young Lee  (1957-) these days. I am intrigued by this somewhat surreal poem about language and relationships from his latest collection Behind My Eyes.

Li-Young Lee's Behind My Eyes

“Sweet Peace in Time”

I said, “What if by story you mean the shortcut home,
but I mean voices in a room by the sea
while days go by

She said,” Open, The Word is a child of eternity.
Closed, the Word is a child of Time.”

I said, “And what if by dream you mean to comb
the knots out of your hair,

to prune the orchard
and correct the fruit,

but I mean to travel
by rain crossing the sea, or apple blossoms
traversing a stone threshold
with a word carved into it:

She said, “Home, speech is the living purchase
of our nights and days.

A traveler, it is a voice in its own lifetime.

A river, it is Time sifted, Time manifest,
laughter that sires the rocks and trees,
that fetches in its ancient skirts
the fateful fruits and seeds.”

I said, “And what if when I say, Song,
you hear, A wing

executing boundary by sounding
the rage of its hunting

but I mean Time and the World
measured by a voice’s passage?

She said, “Empty, The Word is a wind in the trees.

Full it is the voice of a woman
reading out loud from a book of names.”

I said, “To speak is to err.
Words name nothing.
There are no words.”

She said, “Lure, slaughter, feast, blood
in the throat, words turn, changing.”

I said, “We should give up
trying to speak or to be understood.
It’s too late in the world for dialogue.

Death creates a blind spot.
Man is a secret, blind to himself.
And woman…Woman is…”

She said,” Our meeting here manifests
a primordial threshold.

A first and last place, speech
is no place at all, a shelter, ark, and cradle;

salt but not salt, bread but not bread,
a house but no house.”

I said, “The garden was ruined long before
we came to make a world of it.”

2 thoughts on “it is the voice of a woman reading out loud

  1. Li Young Lee is so good! I just found him this year and ended up writing one of my final papers on his poem “Persimmons.” Thanks for sharing this- I hope I can get a copy of his new collection soon.

  2. WOW! I am so happy to be on your list, I’m discovering so many fabulous poets. Thanks for sharing this, it blows me away. My words seem so ordinary in comparison but anyway, fabulous fabulous fabulous.

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