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,
but hear his voice still, a well
of dark water, a prayer.
And I recall his hands,
two measures of tenderness
he laid against my face,
the flames of discipline
he raised above my head.
Had you entered that afternoon
you would have thought you saw a man
planting something in a boy's palm,
a silver tear, a tiny flame.
Had you followed that boy
you would have arrived here,
where I bend over my wife's right hand.
Look how I shave her thumbnail down
so carefully she feels no pain.
Watch as I lift the splinter out.
I was seven when my father
took my hand like this,
and I did not hold that shard
between my fingers and think,
Metal that will bury me,
christen it Little Assassin,
Ore Going Deep for My Heart.
And I did not lift up my wound and cry,
Death visited here!
I did what a child does
when he's given something to keep.
I kissed my father.
Li-Young Lee's Other Poems
Read this poem in other languages
This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.
Comments about this poem (The Gift by Li-Young Lee )
- Amelia, My Brother's Cat, Deborah Eker
- First Trimester, Donal Mahoney
- erotic terminology, lee fones
- The place of defeat, Terry Mitchison
- Father: Every Morning of His Life, Donal Mahoney
- Winter here الشتاء هنا, MOHAMMAD SKATI
- Inference to All Our Years of Walk, N.K. Trevor
- A Sunny Day, Deborah Eker
- A Rainy Day, Deborah Eker
- The Rabbit With The Habit, Deborah Eker
Poem of the Day
- 04 Tongues Made Of Glass, Shaun Shane
- Still I Rise, Maya Angelou
- Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, Dylan Thomas
- Annabel Lee, Edgar Allan Poe
- America the Beautiful, Katharine Lee Bates
- Dreams, Langston Hughes
- All the World's a Stage, William Shakespeare
- Phenomenal Woman, Maya Angelou
- Fire and Ice, Robert Frost
- The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost
(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
(12 July 1904 – 23 September 1973)
(31 May 1819 - 26 March 1892)
(4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014)
(10 December 1830 – 15 May 1886)
(16 August 1920 – 9 March 1994)
(26 April 1564 - 23 April 1616)
Edgar Allan Poe
(19 January 1809 - 7 October 1849)
(1 February 1902 – 22 May 1967)