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By Li-Young Lee


Through the night   

the apples

outside my window   

one by one let go   

their branches and   

drop to the lawn.

I can’t see, but hear

the stem-snap, the plummet

through leaves, then

the final thump against the ground.

Sometimes two   

at once, or one   

right after another.

During long moments of silence

I wait

and wonder about the bruised bodies,   

the terror of diving through air, and   

think I’ll go tomorrow

to find the newly fallen, but they

all look alike lying there

dewsoaked, disappearing before me.


I lie beneath my window listening   

to the sound of apples dropping in

the yard, a syncopated code I long to know,

which continues even as I sleep, and dream I know

the meaning of what I hear, each dull   

thud of unseen apple-

body, the earth   

falling to earth

once and forever, over   

and over.


Li-Young Lee, “Falling: The Code” from Rose. Copyright © 1986 by Li-Young Lee. Reprinted with the permission of BOA Editions Ltd.,

Source: Rose (BOA Editions Ltd., 1986)

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Poet Bio

Li-Young Lee
The son of a personal physician of Mao Zedong, Li-Young Lee was born in Jakarta, Indonesia, to Chinese parents. After fleeing the country, the family settled in the United States in 1964. Li-Young Lee’s mother came from a noble family, with her grandfather serving as the first president of the Republic of China. Upon arriving in the U.S., Lee’s father became a Presbyterian minister in Pennsylvania. Lee’s poetry is filled with vivid imagery and creates an atmosphere of silence, much like the poems of China’s classical poets. His work often fades from reality into dream worlds, and is punctuated with an attention to the senses. See More By This Poet

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