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POEM of the DAY

Friday, December 19


Immigrant Blues 


People have been trying to kill me since I was born,

a man tells his son, trying to explain

the wisdom of learning a second tongue.

It’s an old story from the previous century

about my father and me.

The same old story from yesterday morning

about me and my son.

It’s called “Survival Strategies

and the Melancholy of Racial Assimilation.”

It’s called “Psychological Paradigms of Displaced Persons,”

called “The Child Who’d Rather Play than Study.”

Practice until you feel

the language inside you, says the man.

But what does he know about inside and outside,

my father who was spared nothing

in spite of the languages he used?

And me, confused about the flesh and the soul,

who asked once into a telephone,

Am I inside you?

You’re always inside me, a woman answered,

at peace with the body’s finitude,

at peace with the soul’s disregard

of space and time.

Am I inside you? I asked once

lying between her legs, confused

about the body and the heart.

If you don’t believe you’re inside me, you’re not,

she answered, at peace with the body’s greed,

at peace with the heart’s bewilderment.

It’s an ancient story from yesterday evening

called “Patterns of Love in Peoples of Diaspora,”

called “Loss of the Homeplace

and the Defilement of the Beloved,”

called “I want to Sing but I Don’t Know Any Songs.”

                                                     -Li-Young Lee

                                                             from Behind My Eyes (2008)



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