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Excerpt from 'Book of My Nights'

book.jpgBook of My Nights
Poems

By Li-Young Lee

BOA Editions, Ltd.

Copyright © 2001 Li-Young Lee.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 1-929918-08-9


Chapter One Contents

 

One
    Pillow...........................................................5
    A Table in the Wilderness........................................7
    From Another Room...............................................10
    Nativity........................................................13
    Hurry Toward Beginning..........................................15
    Little Round....................................................17
    Black Petal.....................................................19
    The Well........................................................22
    Night Mirror....................................................23
Two
    Heir to All.....................................................27
    Discrepancies, Happy and Sad....................................28
    My Father's House...............................................29
    The Moon from Any Window........................................34
    Degrees of Blue.................................................36
    The Sleepless...................................................38
    Our River Now...................................................39
    The Bridge......................................................41
    Words for Worry.................................................42
    Little Father...................................................44
    Lullaby.........................................................45
    One Heart.......................................................47
    Praise Them.....................................................48
    Build by Flying.................................................49
    In the Beginning................................................50
    The Other Hours.................................................52
Three
    The Hammock.....................................................57
    The Eternal Son.................................................58
    A Dove! I Said..................................................61
    Fill and Fall...................................................63
    Dwelling........................................................64
    Echo and Shadow.................................................65
    Restless........................................................67
    Stations of the Sea.............................................70
    Buried Heart....................................................72
    Out of Hiding...................................................74
Acknowledgments.....................................................77
About the Author....................................................79


Chapter One


 

Pillow


There's nothing I can't find under there.
Voices in the trees, the missing pages
of the sea.

Everything but sleep.

And night is a river bridging
the speaking and the listening banks,

a fortress, undefended and inviolate.

There's nothing that won't fit under it:
fountains clogged with mud and leaves,
the houses of my childhood.

And night begins when my mother's fingers
let go of the thread
they've been tying and untying
to touch toward our fraying story's hem.

Night is the shadow of my father's hands
setting the clock for resurrection.

Or is it the clock unraveled, the numbers flown?

There's nothing that hasn't found home there:
discarded wings, lost shoes, a broken alphabet.

Everything but sleep. And night begins

with the first beheading
of the jasmine, its captive fragrance
rid at last of burial clothes.


 

A Table in the Wilderness


I draw a window
and a man sitting inside it.

I draw a bird in flight above the lintel.

That's my picture of thinking.

If I put a woman there instead
of the man, it's a picture of speaking.

If I draw a second bird
in the woman's lap, it's ministering.

A third flying below her feet.
Now it's singing.

Or erase the birds,
make ivy branching
around the woman's ankles, clinging
to her knees, and it becomes remembering.

You'll have to find your own
pictures, whoever you are,
whatever your need.

As for me, many small hands
issuing from a waterfall
means silence
mothered me.

The hours hung like fruit in night's tree
means when I close my eyes
and look inside me,

a thousand open eyes
span the moment of my waking.

Meanwhile, the clock
adding a grain to a grain
and not getting bigger,

subtracting a day from a day
and never having less, means the honey

lies awake all night
inside the honeycomb
wondering who its parents are.

And even my death isn't my death
unless it's the unfathomed brow
of a nameless face.

Even my name isn't my name
except the bees assemble

a table to grant a stranger
light and moment in a wilderness
of Who? Where?


(Continues...)

 


Excerpted from Book of My Nights by Li-Young Lee. Copyright © 2001 by Li-Young Lee. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

 


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