Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sunset through wires, American-style

This photo was taken near the end of the Long Trip, when we were just a few hours from home in San Jose. America! What we have known and loved! Tonight's poem is from one of our contemporary great poets, Li-Young Lee, who after a family life that took him here and there, came to rest in America. I think it certainly has echoes of the Classical Chinese poets in the last few posts. We are not finished either with the Ancients of China, nor with Li-Young Lee. Read this lovely tribute to his family and his heritage now. And stay tuned.

I Ask My Mother To Sing

She begins, and my grandmother joins her.
Mother and daughter sing like young girls.
If my father were alive, he would play
his accordion and sway like a boat.

I've never been in Peking, or the Summer Palace,
nor stood on the great Stone Boat to watch
the rain begin on Kuen Ming Lake, the picnickers
running away in the grass.

But I love to hear it sung;
how the waterlilies fill with rain until
they overturn, spilling water into water,
then rock back, and fill with more,

Both women have begun to cry.
But neither stops her song.

Li-Young Lee from Rose, BOA Editions, 1986

This is the photo of the poet I took after his reading in San Jose, many years ago. He was carrying, in addition to his book and manuscripts, a battered copy of the poems of Wallace Stevens. Before that time, I had been sort of repelled by the difficulty I had in understanding Stevens' poetry (that cigar, that snowman, that Blue Guitar, that jar in Tennessee!) but since that time, I have read and considered it more and perhaps we will even have one on this blog soon! There is some pretty great stuff there!

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