Conjured, half-smothered, not getting the relief I’m seeking on this un-level playing field when I lay my head on a cauldron and brew a potion in my pillow. My tulips shout, Stop! So I do.
And night is a river bridging
the speaking and the listening banks,
a fortress, undefended and inviolate.
There’s nothing that won’t fit under it:
fountains clogged with mud and leaves,
the houses of my childhood.
And night begins when my mother’s fingers
let go of the thread
they’ve been tying and untying
to touch toward our fraying story’s hem.
Night is the shadow of my father’s hands
setting the clock for resurrection.
Or is it the clock unraveled, the numbers flown?
There’s nothing that hasn’t found home there:
discarded wings, lost shoes, broken alphabet.
Everything but sleep. And night begins
with the first beheading
of the jasmine, its captive fragrance
rid at last of burial clothes.**
Always obedient when a tulip raises his/her voice. Not so easily convinced by white jasmine climbing ever so slowly up my sleeve and along my neck, dragging it’s piquancy along for the ride but offering no support whatsoever for my heavy, lovelorn head.
[**from Book of My Nights, BOA, 2001 by Li-Young Lee, born in Jakarta, Indonesia,
to Chinese mother and father in 1957]