POETRY: The Eternal Son by Li-Young Lee

The Eternal Son by Li-Young Lee

Someone’s thinking about his mother tonight.

The wakeful son
of a parent who hardly sleeps,

the sleepless father of his own
restless child, God, is it you?
Is it me? Do you have a mother?

Who mixes flour and sugar
for your birthday cake?

Who stirs slumber and remembrance
in a song for your bedtime?

If you’re the cry enjoining dawn,
who birthed you?

If you’re the bell tolling night
without circumference, who rocked you?
Someone’s separating
the white grains of his insomnia
from the black seeds
of his sleep.

If it isn’t you, God, it must be me.

My mother’s eternal son,
I can’t hear the rain without thinking
it’s her in the next room
folding our clothes to lay inside a suitcase.

And now she’s counting her money
on the bed, the good paper
and the paper from the other country
in separate heaps.

If day comes soon, she could buy our passage.
But if our lot is the rest of the night,
we’ll have to trust unseen hands
to hand us toward ever deeper sleep.

Then I’ll be the crumb
at the bottom of her pocket,
and she can keep me
or sow me on the water,
as she pleases. Anyway,

she has too much to carry, she who knows
night must tell the rest of every story.

Now she’s wondering about the sea.
She can’t tell if the white foam laughs
I was born dark! while it spins
opposite the momentum of our dying,
or do the waves journey beyond
the name of every country
and the changing color of her hair.

And if she’s weeping,
it’s because she’s misplaced
both our childhoods.

And if she’s humming, it’s because
she’s heard the name of life:
A name, but no name, the dove

bereft of memory and finally singing
how the light happened
to one who gave up
ever looking back.

2 Comments on POETRY: The Eternal Son by Li-Young Lee

  1. Wonderful write up. Keep on writing 🙂


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