Li-Young Lee


The Gift


To pull the metal splinter from my palm
my father recited a story in a low voice.
I watched his lovely face and not the blade.
Before the story ended, he'd removed
the iron sliver I thought I'd die from.

I can't remember the tale,
but hear his voice still, a well
of dark water, a prayer.
And I recall his hands,
two measures of tenderness
he laid against my face,
the flames of discipline
he raised above my head.

Had you entered that afternoon
you would have thought you saw a man
planting something in a boy's palm,
a silver tear, a tiny flame.
Had you followed that boy
you would have arrived here,
where I bend over my wife's right hand.

Look how I shave her thumbnail down
so carefully she feels no pain.
Watch as I lift the splinter out.
I was seven when my father
took my hand like this,
and I did not hold that shard
between my fingers and think,
Metal that will bury me,
christen it Little Assassin,
Ore Going Deep for My Heart.
And I did not lift up my wound and cry,
Death visited here!
I did what a child does
when he's given something to keep.
I kissed my father.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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  • Tim Allen (5/4/2005 11:48:00 PM)

    i think that this poem represent the relationship between the father and the son. what i don't realise is why? why come? if someone is reading, please help me to understand. thank you. (Report) Reply

  • Tim Allen (5/4/2005 11:47:00 PM)

    i think that this poem represent the relationship between the father and the son. what i don't realise is why? why come? (Report) Reply

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