Art, Poetry, Imagination, MemoryBy
Here’s a wonderful poem from Li Young Lee–I love how he wraps together lamenting, memory and creating his art–his poems really capture a mood and are quite visual. I know so well those dreamy late night/very early morning hours where everyday reality retreats and spirit and emotion feel bigger and truer. As a creative person, I also love how perfectly he expresses the blurry line between imagination and memory and weaves in that desire to create something new from these important personal truths.
I added this poem here to share with you, creative person, to perhaps meditate on the creative process, get inspired, or to consider the relationship between visual art and the written (spoken) word. I’d love to know what you think! Enjoy.
These days I waken in the used light
of someone’s spent life, to discover
the birds have stripped my various names of meaning entire:
the sparrow by quarrel, the dove by grievance.
dismantled. I feel
the hours. Do they veer
to dusk? Or dawn?
Will I rise and go
out into an American city?
Or walk down to the wilderness sea?
I might run with wife and children to the docks
to bribe an officer for our lives
and perilous passage.
Then I’d answer
in an oceanic tongue
to Professor, Capitalist, Husband, Father.
Or I might have one more
hour of sleep before my father
comes to take me
to his snowbound church
where I dust the pews and he sets candles
out the color of teeth.
That means I was born in Bandung, 1958;
on my father’s back, in borrowed clothes,
I came to America.
And I wonder
if I imagined those wintry mornings
in a dim nave, since
I’m the only one
who’s lived to tell it,
and I confuse
the details; was it my father’s skin
which shone like teeth?
Was it his heart that lay snowbound?
But if I waken to a jailer
rousting me to meet my wife and son,
come to see me in my cell
where I eat the chocolate
and smoke the cigarettes they smuggle,
what name do I answer to?
And did I stand
on the train from Chicago to Pittsburgh
so my fevered son could sleep? Or did I
open my eyes
and see my father’s closed face
rocking above me?
Memory revises me.
Even now a letter
comes from a place
I don’t know, from someone
with my name
and postmarked years ago,
while I await
injunctions from the light
or the dark;
I wait for the shapeliness
limned, or dissolution.
Is paradise due or narrowly missed
until another thousand years?
in a blue hour
and faraway noise of hammering,
and on a page a poem begun, something
about to be dispersed,
something aout to come into being.
The City In Which I Love You