With Ruins - Poem by Li-Young Lee
Choose a quiet
place, a ruins, a house no more
under whose stone archway I stood
one day to duck the rain.
The roofless floor, vertical
studs, eight wood columns
two staircases careening to nowhere, all
make it seem
a sketch, notes to a house, a three-
dimensional grid negotiating
receding into indefinite rain,
or else that idea
against the hammered sky, a
human thing, scoured seen clean
through from here to an iron heaven.
A place where things
were said and done,
there you can remember
what you need to
remember. Melancholy is useful. Bring yours.
There are no neighbors to wonder
who you are,
what you might me doing
stopping now and then
to touch a crumbling brick
or stand in a doorway
framed by the day.
No one has to know you
thing of another doorway
that framed the rain or news of war
depending on which way you faced.
You think of sea-roads and earth-roads
you traveled once, and always
in the same direction: away.
of a woman, a favorite
dress, your old father's breasts
the last time you saw him, his breath,
brief, the leaf
you've torn from a vine and which you hold now
to your cheek like a train ticket
or a piece of cloth, a little hand or a blade -
it all depends
on the course of your memory.
It's a place
for those who own no place
to correspond to ruins in the soul.
It's all yours.
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