Arise, Go Down

Li-Young Lee

 
It wasnít the bright hems of the Lordís skirts   
that brushed my face and I opened my eyes   
to see from a cleft in rock His backside;
itís a wasp perched on my left cheek. I keep   
my eyes closed and stand perfectly still   
in the garden till it leaves me alone,
not to contemplate how this century   
ends and the next begins with no one
I know having seen God, but to wonder
why I get through most days unscathed, though I   
live in a time when it might be otherwise,   
and I grow more fatherless each day.
For years now I have come to conclusions   
without my fatherís help, discovering
on my own what I know, what I donít know,
and seeing how one cancels the other.
I've become a scholar of cancellations.   
Here, I stand among my fatherís roses
and see that what punctures outnumbers what
consoles, the cruel and the tender never
make peace, though one climbs, though one descends
petal by petal to the hidden ground   
no one owns. I see that which is taken   
away by violence or persuasion.
The rose announces on earth the kingdom   
of gravity. A bird cancels it.   
My eyelids cancel the bird. Anything
might cancel my eyes: distance, time, war.   
My father said, Never take your both eyes   
off of the world, before he rocked me.
All night we waited for the knock
that would have signalled, All clear, come now;   
it would have meant escape; it never came.
I didnít make the world I leave you with,   
he said, and then, being poor, he left me   
only this world, in which there is always
a family waiting in terror
before theyíre rended, this world wherein a man   
might arise, go down, and walk along a path
and pause and bow to roses, roses
his father raised, and admire them, for one moment   
unable, thank God, to see in each and
every flower the world cancelling itself.
 
Li-Young Lee, "Arise, Go Down" from The City In Which I Love You. Copyright © 1990 by Li-Young Lee. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of BOA Editions, Ltd., a ahref="http://www.boaeditions.org" target=_blank>boaeditions.org.

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
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
The Hour and What Is Dead by Li-Young Lee
Tonight my brother, in heavy boots, is walking


Further Reading

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
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 Hour and What Is Dead
by Li-Young Lee
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