I loved you before I was born.
It doesn't make sense, I know.

I saw your eyes before I had eyes to see.
And I've lived longing 
for your ever look ever since.
That longing entered time as this body. 
And the longing grew as this body waxed.
And the longing grows as the body wanes.
The longing will outlive this body.

I loved you before I was born.
It doesn't make sense, I know.

Long before eternity, I caught a glimpse
of your neck and shoulders, your ankles and toes.
And I've been lonely for you from that instant.
That loneliness appeared on earth as this body. 
And my share of time has been nothing 
but your name outrunning my ever saying it clearly. 
Your face fleeing my ever
kissing it firmly once on the mouth.

In longing, I am most myself, rapt,
my lamp mortal, my light 
hidden and singing. 

I give you my blank heart.
Please write on it
what you wish. 

From The Undressing: Poems by Li-Young Lee. Copyright © 2018 by Li-Young Lee. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

translated by Muna Lee

   I grew
   Only for you.
Cut the acacia boughs that demand
Only destruction at your hand!

   My blossom blew
   Only for you.
Uproot me—in its natal hour
My lily doubted were it candle or flower.

   My waters blue
   Flow for you.
Drink me—never crystal knows
So pure a tide as in this channel flows.

   Wings I knew
   Only for you.
Pursue me! (Quivering firefly,
Veil your flame from every eye!)

I shall suffer for you.
Blessed be the evil that your love will do!
Blessed be the blade, the net I shall feel!
Blessed be thirst and steel!

My heart’s blood will flow
That my love you may know.
What fairer gem, what rarer jewel could be found
Than this offering of a scarlet wound?

Instead of diadems in my hair,
Seven long thorns I shall wear.
Instead of ear-rings I shall don
Two burning coals of vermilion.

When you see me suffering
You will hear my laughter ring.
And you will weep and pity me:
Then more than ever mine you will be.



El fuerte lazo 


              Para tí.
        Tálame. Mi acacia
Implora a tus manos su golpe de gracia.

              Para tí.
        Córtame. Mi lirio
Al nacer dudaba ser flor o ser cirio.

              Para tí.
        Bébeme. El cristal
Envidia lo claro de mi manantial.

              Alas dí
              Por tí.
        Cázame. Falena,
Rodeo tu llama de impaciencia llena.

              Por tí sufriré.
¡Bendito sea el daño que tu amor me dé!
¡Bendita sea el hacha, bendita la red,
Y loadas sean tijeras y sed!

              Sangre del costado
              Manaré, mi amado.
¿Qué broche más bello, qué joya más grata,
Que por tí una llaga color escarlata?

En vez de abalorios para mis cabellos
Siete espinas largas hundiré entre ellos.
Y en vez de zarcillos pondré en mis orejas,
Como dos rubíes dos ascuas bermejas.

              Me verás reír
              Viéndome sufrir.

              Y tú llorarás.
Y entonces... ¡más mío que nunca serás!

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on October 3, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.