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Copyright © 2000. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2000. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2000. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2000. All rights reserved.
The Kindness of Others
The kindness of others
is all they ever wanted,
the laughter of neighbors
prospering in the blue light of summer.
Those of the small sputtering flame
and the sudden white sprung hair,
who feed off envy and grow old quickly,
desire largesse.
The role of poor relation
evokes a lack
they are not apt to admit,
or unbearable pity.
They prefer to penetrate the giver's
effortless knack of giving
they perceive as vitality,
a pulsating entity
that rewards the kindness of others
tenfold.
This they have witnessed.
This they have tabulated relentlessly.
The generosity of others
whose spirits, like their long-legged
children blossoming into a progeny
of orchards and fields, flourish.
Those who have never known kindness
drag into the privacy of their smallness
the baskets of fruit
appearing year after year on their porches.
CATHY SONG 3 9
to be picked apart
in the hushed posture of thieves.
They peel skin, probe flesh
the color of honey
as if the seeds will yield something
other than a glimmer of sweet air
rising from the roots of trees
and licorice-laced, half-opened leaves.
Those of the small flame,
who feed offenvy and grow old quickly,
live out their lives
hungry,
glaring at themselves across the table,
wife of the cruel mouth,
husband of the thin broth
trickling like spittle.
4 0 POETRY
CATHY SONG
The Man Moves Earth
The man moves earth
to dispel grief.
He digs holes
the size of cars.
In proportion to what is taken
what is given multiplies —
rain-swollen ponds
and dirt mounds
rooted with flame-tipped flowers.
He carries trees like children
struggling to be set down.
Trees that have lived
out their lives,
he cuts and stacks
like loaves of bread
which he will feed the fire.
The green smoke sweetens
his house.
The woman sweeps air
to banish sadness.
She dusts floors,
polishes objects
made of clay and wood.
In proportion to what is taken
what is given multiplies —
the task of something
else to clean.
Gleaming appliances
beg to be smudged,
breathed upon by small children
and large animals
flicking out hope
as she whirls by,
flap of tongue.
CATHY SONG 37
scratch of paw,
sweetly reminding her.
The man moves earth,
the woman sweeps air.
Together they pull water
out of the other,
pull with the muscular
ache of the living,
hauling from the deep
well of the body
the rain-swollen,
the flame-tipped,
the milk-fed —
all that cycles
through lives moving,
lives sweeping, water
circulating between them
like breath,
drawn out of leaves by light.
38 POETRY
Little Ache
Tbat sparrow on tbe iron railing,
not wortb a fartbing, purcbases a realm
its sbrill cries measure, trading
dying for being.
It's up to no good,
out to overturn a kingdom
just by swooping into tbe 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 breatbing remnant
restored to a living clotb.
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 Anotber Language.
For my gladness, Featbered Interval,
The Deciding Gram, Geronimo.
For nothing. Monument to the Nano.
LI-YOUNG LEE 205
PDEMS WE LDVE
Cat This Poem
I love this poem and I want you to see why.
Read it. Then read it again, slowly. Eat it
like a peach'—taste it. soft bite by soft bite.
Let the words and rhythms roll around on
your tongue like peach flesh. You see? This
poem is not crunchy like French fries. It's
not hard and dry like a bone. It's sweet,
luscious, and light—but very filling. Yum.
—Debbie Nevins
Juicy
From Blossoms
By Li-Young Lee
ms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought ÍTom the boy
at the bend in the road where we '
turned toward i
signs painted Peaches.
From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succi
peaches we devour, dusty skin and
comes the familiar dust of summed
dust we eat.
Lj-Young Lee, "From Blossoms" from Rose. Copyright
© 1985 by LJ-Young Lee. Reprinted with permission
of BOA Editions. Ltd. www.boaeditions.org.
22 READ April 18, 2008
it
loave a
so fer-Pect t h a t
wished you could hold
pry within us an orchard, to eat
bnly the skin, but the shade,
pnly the sugar, but the days, to hold
^ i t in our hands, adore it,
en bite into
TOund jubilance of peach.
re are days we live
I
death were nowhere
i background; from joy
r to joy, from wing to wing,
blossom to blossom to
ssible blossom, to sweet :
possible blossom.
The peach t a s t e s o-p
Suga»'. (ui-Fe ard Uove)
i t also t a s t e s o-F dust.
(peath?)
The poet waists to
stop time avd hold ol̂
to the joy t h a t is the
"sweet impossible b
o-f couï'se, it's impossible.
Li-Young Lee is a Chinese American poet who
came to the United States as a child.
He has written several books of poetry as well
as a memoir.
April 18. 2008 READ 23
Copyright of Massachusetts Review is the property of
Massachusetts Review, Inc. and its content may not be
copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv
without the copyright holder's express written
permission. However, users may print, download, or email
articles for individual use.
Copyright of Massachusetts Review is the property of
Massachusetts Review, Inc. and its content may not be
copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv
without the copyright holder's express written
permission. However, users may print, download, or email
articles for individual use.
LI-YOUNG LEE
Secret Life
Alone with time, he waits for his parents to wake,
a boy growing old at the dining room table,
pressing into the pages of one of his father's big books
the flowers he picked all morning
in his mother's garden, magnolia, hibiscus,
azalea, peony, pear, tulip, iris;
reading in another book their names he knows,
and then the names from their secret lives;
lives alchemical, nautical, genital;
names unpronounceable fascicles of italic script;
secrets botanical
description could never trace:
accessory to empire, party to delusions of an afterlife,
kin to the toothed, mouthed, furred,
horned, brained. Flowers
seem to a boy, who doesn't know better, like the winged,
the walking, the swimming and crawling things abstracted
from time, and stilled by inward gazing.
Copying their pictures, replete with diagrams, he finds
in the words for their parts,
the accounts of their histories,
and their scattered pollen,
something to do with his own fate
and the perfection of all dying things.
LI-YOUNG LEE 2 0 3
And wben it's time, be discovers in tbe kitcben
tbe note left for him tbat says
bis parents bave gone and will return by noon.
And wben it's time, tbe dove
calls from its biding place
and leaves tbe morning greener
and tbe one wbo bears tbe dove more alone.
2 0 4 POETRY

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Copyright © 2000. All rights reserved.Copyright © 2000.docx

  • 1. Copyright © 2000. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2000. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2000. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2000. All rights reserved. The Kindness of Others The kindness of others is all they ever wanted, the laughter of neighbors prospering in the blue light of summer. Those of the small sputtering flame and the sudden white sprung hair, who feed off envy and grow old quickly, desire largesse. The role of poor relation evokes a lack they are not apt to admit,
  • 2. or unbearable pity. They prefer to penetrate the giver's effortless knack of giving they perceive as vitality, a pulsating entity that rewards the kindness of others tenfold. This they have witnessed. This they have tabulated relentlessly. The generosity of others whose spirits, like their long-legged children blossoming into a progeny of orchards and fields, flourish. Those who have never known kindness drag into the privacy of their smallness the baskets of fruit appearing year after year on their porches. CATHY SONG 3 9 to be picked apart in the hushed posture of thieves. They peel skin, probe flesh the color of honey as if the seeds will yield something other than a glimmer of sweet air rising from the roots of trees and licorice-laced, half-opened leaves.
  • 3. Those of the small flame, who feed offenvy and grow old quickly, live out their lives hungry, glaring at themselves across the table, wife of the cruel mouth, husband of the thin broth trickling like spittle. 4 0 POETRY CATHY SONG The Man Moves Earth The man moves earth to dispel grief. He digs holes the size of cars. In proportion to what is taken what is given multiplies — rain-swollen ponds and dirt mounds rooted with flame-tipped flowers. He carries trees like children struggling to be set down. Trees that have lived out their lives, he cuts and stacks like loaves of bread
  • 4. which he will feed the fire. The green smoke sweetens his house. The woman sweeps air to banish sadness. She dusts floors, polishes objects made of clay and wood. In proportion to what is taken what is given multiplies — the task of something else to clean. Gleaming appliances beg to be smudged, breathed upon by small children and large animals flicking out hope as she whirls by, flap of tongue. CATHY SONG 37 scratch of paw, sweetly reminding her. The man moves earth, the woman sweeps air. Together they pull water out of the other, pull with the muscular ache of the living, hauling from the deep well of the body
  • 5. the rain-swollen, the flame-tipped, the milk-fed — all that cycles through lives moving, lives sweeping, water circulating between them like breath, drawn out of leaves by light. 38 POETRY Little Ache Tbat sparrow on tbe iron railing, not wortb a fartbing, purcbases a realm its sbrill cries measure, trading dying for being. It's up to no good, out to overturn a kingdom just by swooping into tbe 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 breatbing remnant restored to a living clotb. Or scissors
  • 6. trimming lament to allow for everything I don't know. For my happiness, I'll call it Pocket Dictionary Full of Words in Anotber Language. For my gladness, Featbered Interval, The Deciding Gram, Geronimo. For nothing. Monument to the Nano. LI-YOUNG LEE 205 PDEMS WE LDVE Cat This Poem I love this poem and I want you to see why. Read it. Then read it again, slowly. Eat it like a peach'—taste it. soft bite by soft bite. Let the words and rhythms roll around on your tongue like peach flesh. You see? This poem is not crunchy like French fries. It's not hard and dry like a bone. It's sweet, luscious, and light—but very filling. Yum. —Debbie Nevins Juicy From Blossoms By Li-Young Lee
  • 7. ms comes this brown paper bag of peaches we bought ÍTom the boy at the bend in the road where we ' turned toward i signs painted Peaches. From laden boughs, from hands, from sweet fellowship in the bins, comes nectar at the roadside, succi peaches we devour, dusty skin and comes the familiar dust of summed dust we eat. Lj-Young Lee, "From Blossoms" from Rose. Copyright © 1985 by LJ-Young Lee. Reprinted with permission of BOA Editions. Ltd. www.boaeditions.org. 22 READ April 18, 2008 it loave a so fer-Pect t h a t
  • 8. wished you could hold pry within us an orchard, to eat bnly the skin, but the shade, pnly the sugar, but the days, to hold ^ i t in our hands, adore it, en bite into TOund jubilance of peach. re are days we live I death were nowhere i background; from joy r to joy, from wing to wing, blossom to blossom to ssible blossom, to sweet : possible blossom. The peach t a s t e s o-p Suga»'. (ui-Fe ard Uove) i t also t a s t e s o-F dust. (peath?) The poet waists to stop time avd hold ol̂
  • 9. to the joy t h a t is the "sweet impossible b o-f couï'se, it's impossible. Li-Young Lee is a Chinese American poet who came to the United States as a child. He has written several books of poetry as well as a memoir. April 18. 2008 READ 23 Copyright of Massachusetts Review is the property of Massachusetts Review, Inc. and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use.
  • 10. Copyright of Massachusetts Review is the property of Massachusetts Review, Inc. and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use. LI-YOUNG LEE Secret Life Alone with time, he waits for his parents to wake, a boy growing old at the dining room table, pressing into the pages of one of his father's big books the flowers he picked all morning in his mother's garden, magnolia, hibiscus, azalea, peony, pear, tulip, iris; reading in another book their names he knows, and then the names from their secret lives; lives alchemical, nautical, genital; names unpronounceable fascicles of italic script;
  • 11. secrets botanical description could never trace: accessory to empire, party to delusions of an afterlife, kin to the toothed, mouthed, furred, horned, brained. Flowers seem to a boy, who doesn't know better, like the winged, the walking, the swimming and crawling things abstracted from time, and stilled by inward gazing. Copying their pictures, replete with diagrams, he finds in the words for their parts, the accounts of their histories, and their scattered pollen, something to do with his own fate and the perfection of all dying things. LI-YOUNG LEE 2 0 3 And wben it's time, be discovers in tbe kitcben tbe note left for him tbat says bis parents bave gone and will return by noon. And wben it's time, tbe dove calls from its biding place and leaves tbe morning greener and tbe one wbo bears tbe dove more alone.
  • 12. 2 0 4 POETRY