Download the .mp3 file

"Little Father"

by Li-Young Lee

I buried my father
in the sky.
Since then, the birds
clean and comb him every morning
and pull the blanket up to his chin
every night.

I buried my father underground.
Since then, my ladders
only climb down,
and all the earth has become a house
whose rooms are the hours, whose doors
stand open at evening, receiving
guest after guest.
Sometimes I see past them
to the tables spread for a wedding feast.

I buried my father in my heart.
Now he grows in me, my strange son,
my little root who won't drink milk,
little pale foot sunk in unheard-of night,
little clock spring newly wet
in the fire, little grape, parent to the future
wine, a son the fruit of his own son,
little father I ransom with my life.

 


Li-Young LeeLi-Young Lee's elegiac poem explores both the physical and psychological ways in which we bury the dead. Its first stanza refers to sky burial, a Buddhist funeral practice in which the body is left on a mountaintop to be eaten by scavenging birds.

Lee was born in Indonesia to Chinese parents before emigrating to the U.S. in 1964. The author of many books of poetry and a memoir, he has taught at Northwestern University and the University of Iowa. He lives in Chicago.

"Little Father," from Book of My Nights © 2001 by Li-Young Lee, used by permission of the author.

 

Close

Places I've Been

The following links are virtual breadcrumbs marking the 27 most recent pages you have visited in Bucknell.edu. If you want to remember a specific page forever click the pin in the top right corner and we will be sure not to replace it. Close this message.