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.
More By This Poet
I buried my father
in the sky.
Since then, the birds
clean and comb him every morning
and pull the blanket up to his chin
I buried my father underground.
Since then, my ladders
only climb down,
and all the earth has become a house
whose rooms are...
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,
From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
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...
Falling: The Code
Through the night
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.
at once, or one
right after another.
During long moments of silence
That scraping of iron on iron when the wind
rises, what is it? Something the wind won’t
quit with, but drags back and forth.
Sometimes faint, far, then suddenly, close, just
beyond the screened door, as if someone there
squats in the dark honing his...
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,
brothers, sister, my mother who will
taste the sweetest meat of the head,
holding it between her fingers