Li-Young Lee


Visions And Interpretations


Because this graveyard is a hill,
I must climb up to see my dead,
stopping once midway to rest
beside this tree.

It was here, between the anticipation
of exhaustion, and exhaustion,
between vale and peak,
my father came down to me

and we climbed arm in arm to the top.
He cradled the bouquet I'd brought,
and 1, a good son, never mentioned his grave,
erect like a door behind him.

And it was here, one summer day, I sat down
to read an old book. When I looked up
from the noon-lit page, I saw a vision
of a world about to come, and a world about to go.

Truth is, I've not seen my father
since he died, and, no, the dead
do not walk arm in arm with me.

If I carry flowers to them, I do so without their help,
the blossoms not always bright, torch-like,
but often heavy as sodden newspaper.

Truth is, I came here with my son one day,
and we rested against this tree,
and I fell asleep, and dreamed

a dream which, upon my boy waking me, I told.
Neither of us understood.
Then we went up.

Even this is not accurate.
Let me begin again:

Between two griefs, a tree.
Between my hands, white chrysanthemums, yellow
chrysanthemums.

The old book I finished reading
I've since read again and again.

And what was far grows near,
and what is near grows more dear,

and all of my visions and interpretations
depend on what I see,

and between my eyes is always
the rain, the migrant rain.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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Read poems about / on: tree, son, father, truth, rain, summer, dream, world, flower

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  • Jolene Garanzha (2/9/2014 11:43:00 AM)

    To me, this poem is about visiting the graves of loved ones; as we get older we accumulate (our) dead. The poem's switch reflects the effort to grasp the surrealism of death and loss. (Report) Reply

  • Rabecca Gregory (10/29/2009 12:11:00 AM)

    This poem is kind of confusing. The first part of the poem it seems as if the son is narrating, it then switches to the father narrating, and then back to the son agian. What I got out of it is that the son's father has passed away and that he is having these detailed visions. (Report) Reply

  • Tyler Anonymous (10/28/2009 11:41:00 PM)

    This poem talks about a man that has lost a love one so he climbs in this mind with his father but does not tell him that he was dead. I think the poem is beautiful and very descriptive that he lost his love one. (Report) Reply

  • April Kiessling (10/7/2009 10:50:00 PM)

    This is very lovely. You seem to be searching for reality and significance in the face of your father's death. (Report) Reply

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