This sadness I feel tonight is not my sadness.
Maybe it’s my father’s.
For having never been prized by his father.
For having never profited by his son.
This loneliness is Nobody’s. Nobody’s lonely
because Nobody was never born
and will never die.
This gloom is Someone Else’s.
Someone Else is gloomy
because he’s always someone else.
For so many years, I answered to a name,
and I can’t say who answered.
Mister Know Nothing? Brother Inconsolable?
Sister Every Secret Thing? Anybody? Somebody?
With death for a bedfellow,
how could thinking be anything but restless?
Somebody thinks: God, I turn my hand face down
and You are You and I am me.
I turn my hand face up
and You are the I
and I am your Thee.
What happens when you turn your hand?
Lord, remember me.
I was born in the City of Victory,
on a street called Jalan Industri where,
each morning, the man selling rice cakes went by
pushing his cart, its little steamer whistling,
while at his waist, at the end of a red string,
a little brass bell
shivered into a fine, steady seizure.
This sleeplessness is not my sleeplessness.
It must be the stars’ insomnia.
And I am their earthbound descendant.
Someone, Anyone, No One, me, and Someone Else.
Five in a bed, and none of us can sleep.
Five in one body, begotten, not made.
And the sorrow we bear together is none of ours.
Maybe it’s Yours, God.
For living so near to Your creatures.
For suffering so many incarnations unknown to Yourself.
For remaining strange to lovers and friends,
and then outliving them and all of their names for You.
For living sometimes for years without a name.
And all of Your springtimes disheveled.
And all of Your winters one winter.
From The Undressing: Poems by Li-Young Lee. Copyright © 2018 by Li-Young Lee. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.