Li-Young Lee

Li-Young Lee Poems

From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the joy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward

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.

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

While the long grain is softening
in the water, gurgling
over a low stove flame, before
the salted Winter Vegetable is sliced

And when, in the city in which I love you,
even my most excellent song goes unanswered,
andI mount the scabbed streets,
the long shouts of avenues,

Sad is the man who is asked for a story
and can't come up with one.

His five-year-old son waits in his lap.

In the steamer is the trout
seasoned with slivers of ginger,
two sprigs of green onion, and sesame oil.
We shall eat it with rice for lunch,

I've pulled the last of the year's young onions.
The garden is bare now. The ground is cold,
brown and old. What is left of the day flames
in the maples at the corner of my

Lie still now
while I prepare for my future,
certain hard days ahead,
when I'll need what I know so clearly this moment.

Because this graveyard is a hill,
I must climb up to see my dead,
stopping once midway to rest
beside this tree.

We two sit on our bed, you
between my legs, your back to me, your head
slightly bowed, that I may brush and braid

Ivy ties the cellar door
in autumn, in summer morning glory
wraps the ribs of a mouse.
Love binds me to the one


There's nothing I can't find under there.
Voices in the trees, the missing pages
of the sea.

Tonight my brother, in heavy boots, is walking
through the bare rooms over my head,
opening and closing doors.
What could he be looking for in an empty house?

It's late. I've come
to find the flower which blossoms
like a saint dying upside down.
The rose won't do, nor the iris.

Someone said my name in the garden,

while I grew smaller
in the spreading shadow of the peonies,

In the dark, a child might ask, What is the world?
just to hear his sister
promise, An unfinished wing of heaven,
just to hear his brother say,

We come to each other
exactly at the center,
the spine of ample fire, and suffer
to be revised.

Forgive me for thinking I saw
the irregular postage stamp of death;
a black moth the size of my left
thumbnail is all I've trapped in the damask.

Choose a quiet
place, a ruins, a house no more
a house,
under whose stone archway I stood

Li-Young Lee Biography

Li-Young Lee (born August 19, 1957) is an American poet. He was born in Jakarta, Indonesia, to Chinese parents. His maternal grandfather was Yuan Shikai, China's first Republican President, who attempted to make himself emperor. Lee's father, who was a personal physician to Mao Zedong while in China, relocated his family to Indonesia, where he helped found Gamaliel University. His father was exiled and spent 19 months in an Indonesian prison camp in Macau. In 1959 the Lee family fled the country to escape anti-Chinese sentiment and after a five-year trek through Hong Kong and Japan, they settled in the United States in 1964. Li-Young Lee attended the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Arizona, and the State University of New York at Brockport. Development as a poet Lee attended the University of Pittsburgh, where he began to develop his love for writing. He had seen his father find his passion for ministry and as a result of his father reading to him and encouraging Lee to find his passion, Lee began to dive into the art of language. Lee’s writing has also been influenced by classic Chinese poets, such as Li Bai and Du Fu. Many of Lee’s poems are filled with themes of simplicity, strength, and silence. All are strongly influenced by his family history, childhood, and individuality. He writes with simplicity and passion which creates images that take the reader deeper and also requires his audience to fill in the gaps with their own imagination. These feelings of exile and boldness to rebel take shape as they provide common themes for many of his poems. Lee’s influence on Asian American poetry Li-Young Lee has been an established Asian American poet who has been doing interviews for the past twenty years. Breaking the Alabaster Jar: Conversations with Li-Young Lee (BOA Editions, 2006, ed. Earl G. Ingersoll), is the first edited and published collection of interviews with an Asian American poet. In this book, Earl G. Ingersoll has collected interviews with the poet consisting of "conversational" questions meant to bring out Lee’s views on Asian American poetry, writing, and identity.)

The Best Poem Of Li-Young Lee

From Blossoms

From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the joy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

Li-Young Lee Comments

Amberlee Carter 15 August 2005

Night. Mother wren, soldier heron, and pastor crow were all three waiting for the citizen seed to wake, to rise from his dark bed walking, to speak. The seed lay in a dead swoon. Somewhere, snow fell past a clock, and the seed slept. Somewhere, a man grew a beard and died in his cell, and the seed slept. A woman waited for her lover a lifetime, then swept her kitchen of leaves blown in from seasons upon seasons of trees the man left unpruned, the shears hung to rust in a lower branch, and the seed slept. A city closed its gates. The seed slept. What to do? Fretted mother wren. Stand fast, counseled the heron. The pastor, wise crow, spoke: only a hand can help us, and only a thief. For only a thief will know the way into a fortified seed. But where, asked the soldier, will we find such a hand? The wren looked here and there, in a hayloft, inside an old coat sleeve. The pastor ventured throughout the countryside. The heron guarded the sleeper. One night the crow found the hand lying under a thigh. The hand smelled of oranges and fish, and lay dreaming of oranges bobbing in the ocean, among the wreckage of crates, the fruit nudged now and then from below, nibbled by unseen mouths. The crow scratched a message on the windowsill, tapped on the pane, then fled. The hand, a blind thief, read the pecked sill with its fingers, then lit out after the bird. After many years the bird and the hand arrived where the tattered wren, in a cap of snow, stood by the heron, who wore a shawl of snow across his powerful shoulders. There, said the crow to the thief, and the hand approached the tiny sleeper. Children, I know you wonder how a hand may enter a place so narrow as a seed. The answer is the hand must die. So the hand lay down next to the seed, opened, and the three ravenous birds ripped up its flesh and gobbled up the blood, and put the bones in a sack. Once inside the seed, the thief, who had been blind, could see. He moved toward the heart of the seed, but found his path blocked by a book. Leafing through the book, he noticed many pages missing. Yet, even with missing pages, the book was too large to move, too high to vault, and too wide to go around. So he sat down and began to read the book with the missing pages. Reading first the odd-numbered pages, and then the even, he read out loud, while all one hundred rooms of the house of the seed echoed with the sound of a hand reading. Taken fron the book: The Winged Seed: A Remembrance By Li-Young Lee

43 39 Reply
Mark Robertson 28 March 2005

Li-Young Lee is remarkable for his ability to put pain and love in the palm of hand. Many of his works are in major text books for U.SA. high school students. His 'The Gift' is one of the best positive father-son relationship poems that exists in the English language.

53 23 Reply
Jonathan 02 February 2021


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Jonathan 02 February 2021

Lee's poem is simplistic and passionate. In this poem, Lee explores the experiences of his family. Lee asks his mother and grandmother to sing about China.

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logan 29 October 2019

not much about him? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

5 2 Reply
David 11 May 2018

What are your poems about.

3 4 Reply
Walterrean Salley 23 November 2016

Great poems! This poet is a true gift to poetry. I've enjoyed those read; would love to stay and read all of them, but gotta move on. Hope to visit again soon. Best wishes.

10 7 Reply
Siobhan Mc Donnell 20 May 2013

Li-Young Lee is a Bodhisattva

26 21 Reply

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