The Hour and What Is Dead

Li-Young Lee

 
Tonight my brother, in heavy boots, is walking
through bare rooms over my head,
opening and closing doors.
What could he be looking for in an empty house?
What could he possibly need there in heaven?
Does he remember his earth, his birthplace set to torches?
His love for me feels like spilled water
running back to its vessel.
At this hour, what is dead is restless
and what is living is burning.
Someone tell him he should sleep now.
My father keeps a light on by our bed
and readies for our journey.
He mends ten holes in the knees
of five pairs of boy's pants.
His love for me is like sewing:
various colors and too much thread,
the stitching uneven. But the needle pierces
clean through with each stroke of his hand.
At this hour, what is dead is worried
and what is living is fugitive.
Someone tell him he should sleep now.
God, that old furnace, keeps talking
with his mouth of teeth,
a beard stained at feasts, and his breath
of gasoline, airplane, human ash.
His love for me feels like fire,
feels like doves, feels like river-water.
At this hour, what is dead is helpless, kind
and helpless. While the Lord lives.
Someone tell the Lord to leave me alone.
I've had enough of his love
that feels like burning and flight and running away.
 
From The City In Which I Love You by Li-Young Lee. Copyright © 1990 by Li-Young Lee. Reprinted with permission of BOA Editions, Ltd. All rights reserved.

Poems by This Author

A Story by Li-Young Lee
Sad is the man who is asked for a story
A Table in the Wilderness by Li-Young Lee
I draw a window
Arise, Go Down by Li-Young Lee
It wasnít the bright hems of the Lordís skirts
Black Petal by Li-Young Lee
I never claimed night fathered me
Eating Alone by Li-Young Lee
I've pulled the last of the year's young onions
Eating Together by Li-Young Lee
In the steamer is the trout
From Blossoms by Li-Young Lee
From blossoms comes
Immigrant Blues by Li-Young Lee
People have been trying to kill me since I was born
Little Father by Li-Young Lee
I buried my father
Mnemonic by Li-Young Lee
I was tired. So I lay down
Persimmons by Li-Young Lee
In sixth grade Mrs. Walker
Pillow by Li-Young Lee
There's nothing I can't find under there
The Children's Hour by Li-Young Lee
Soldiers with guns are at our door again
The Cleaving by Li-Young Lee
He gossips like my grandmother, this man
The Gift by Li-Young Lee
To pull the metal splinter from my palm
The Hammock by Li-Young Lee
When I lay my head in my mother's lap


Further Reading

Related Poems
The Hour Until We See You
by Brenda Hillman
Poems About Tragedy and Grief
"My True Love Hath My Heart and I Have His"
by Mary Elizabeth Coleridge
Adonais, 49-52, [Go thou to Rome]
by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Hamlet, Act III, Scene I [To be, or not to be]
by William Shakespeare
Against Elegies
by Marilyn Hacker
Alabanza: In Praise of Local 100
by Martín Espada
Arise, Go Down
by Li-Young Lee
Assault to Abjury
by Raymond McDaniel
Before
by Carl Adamshick
Breaking Across Us Now
by Katie Ford
Curtains
by Ruth Stone
Day of Grief
by Gerald Stern
Dear Lonely Animal,
by Oni Buchanan
December, 1919
by Claude McKay
Easter 1916
by W. B. Yeats
Eulogy
by Kevin Young
Facing It
by Yusef Komunyakaa
Fairbanks Under the Solstice
by John Haines
here rests
by Lucille Clifton
Hum
by Ann Lauterbach
I Can Afford Neither the Rain
by Holly Iglesias
I Found Her Out There
by Thomas Hardy
I measure every Grief I meet (561)
by Emily Dickinson
I Pack Her Suitcase with Sticks, Light the Tinder, and Shut the Lid
by Rob Schlegel
Imagine
by Kamilah Aisha Moon
In Louisiana
by Albert Bigelow Paine
Lycidas
by John Milton
Memorial Day for the War Dead
by Yehuda Amichai
On His Deceased Wife
by John Milton
Ozymandias
by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Pretty Polly
by Jane Springer
Quiet Mourning
by Laura Moriarty
Requiescat
by Matthew Arnold
Richard Cory
by Edwin Arlington Robinson
Rose Aylmer
by Walter Savage Landor
September 1, 1939
by W. H. Auden
Song ["When I am dead, my dearest"]
by Christina Rossetti
Stillbirth
by Laure-Anne Bosselaar
Surprised By Joy
by William Wordsworth
That This
by Susan Howe
The Dead
by Joan Aleshire
The Gaffe
by C. K. Williams
The Not Tale (Funeral)
by Caroline Bergvall
The Second Coming
by W. B. Yeats
The Stolen Child
by W. B. Yeats
The Widow's Lament in Springtime
by William Carlos Williams
The Words Under the Words
by Naomi Shihab Nye
Tigers
by Melissa Ginsburg
To W.C.W. M.D.
by Alfred Kreymborg