…I’ve never been in Peking, or the Summer Palace,
nor stood on the great Stone Boat to watch
the rain begin on Kuen Ming Lake, the picnickers
running away in the grass.
But I love to hear it sung;
how the waterlilies fill with rain until
they overturn, spilling water into water,
then rock back, and fill with more.
Both women have begun to cry.
But neither stops her song.
-excerpt, Li-Young Lee, “I Ask My Mother to Sing”
* * *
Journal: 9th of Av, and Book of Hours
[jewish israeli] OMG I thoght u were in greece, we can meet can you come to jersalam?
[christian palestinian] Hi If I wanna to go to Jerusalem of course so I need to take two or three kinds of transportation to Ezareya junction then to Zaytouna check points after that a public bus or privet car to Damascus Gate
Or I can take a Ford to Container Check points then after that I can take Palestinian car to Bethlehem to central bus station
-online chat forum
as when driving in the hush of mountains
you think you might tune in to a station you know
-all is static though. You think there is no help for it;
The mind begins to roam the other roads that curl
and twine from this one even as the steady growl
of the chassis-weight on the old tar is hums with you.
Another here and here and here, the same;
we are never the same.
as when, in a lonely place, you begin to think
of other travellers before or after you, in vehicles
like houseboats or some like flashy fat gems sliding
right off a long ashy finger. Their hush, their low growl,
their dust, a continent or more away, and perhaps
our slow observant stance of mind unites us?
It is a relief to me. The scene of the joyous or tight tangle
of the town is lifted from me. I am wanting oftentimes
for a friend to look me straight in the eye and give me
some wisecrack like it’s good enough, and then I will know
that I am fully part of this landscape.
You start thinking of times you have been drawn to
mesmeric distance; how, when traveling, once, took longer,
it was possible to include more of this methodic ease
that is rest in motion, in a way of life
-as when continuity of the green and greener shadows
and the ribbon unending, lubricate something in you.
* * *
And you tune in again to find that ‘the news from other places
sounds so much like your own’. Over the Judaean hills, poorly shaved
and scrub remaining, they are sitting on a cool floor, you are
listening to some vigil, catching a few words: collapsed
house, burning, night, the children were wailing.
who knows where you are now, of the many places blessedly
unmarked; your fingers might slip on the dial and you are hearing
kids screeching full-on, sounding so much like your own, as in
those accounts from the middle east in which the feral cats
so mimic the howling of infants that a body will crouch, compelled
to look to the pungent heat in shade, under a car. They say
the scream of a wildcat might chill like a woman. And just
as quickly the cacophonic scratches are gone, yet some raga
lowers upon your mind, a between-scene curtain woven of crumbling
shacks and children like warm small goats; how is it, your mind asks,
that your body rolls on through dark conifers, and later, patched
crops fade to gold, but of all of these places, the children in immigration
hearings, the flaming arena of the border, and the voices of those you
love, all converge in the static of your cab?
Poem excerpt copyright ©1986 by Li-Young Lee, whose most recent book of poems is Behind My Eyes, BOA Editions, Ltd., 2009