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.”