Arise, Go Down
It wasn’t the bright hems of the Lord’s skirts that brushed my face and I opened my eyes to see from a cleft in rock His backside; it’s a wasp perched on my left cheek. I keep my eyes closed and stand perfectly still in the garden till it leaves me alone, not to contemplate how this century ends and the next begins with no one I know having seen God, but to wonder why I get through most days unscathed, though I live in a time when it might be otherwise, and I grow more fatherless each day. For years now I have come to conclusions without my father’s help, discovering on my own what I know, what I don’t know, and seeing how one cancels the other. I've become a scholar of cancellations. Here, I stand among my father’s roses and see that what punctures outnumbers what consoles, the cruel and the tender never make peace, though one climbs, though one descends petal by petal to the hidden ground no one owns. I see that which is taken away by violence or persuasion. The rose announces on earth the kingdom of gravity. A bird cancels it. My eyelids cancel the bird. Anything might cancel my eyes: distance, time, war. My father said, Never take your both eyes off of the world, before he rocked me. All night we waited for the knock that would have signalled, All clear, come now; it would have meant escape; it never came. I didn’t make the world I leave you with, he said, and then, being poor, he left me only this world, in which there is always a family waiting in terror before they’re rended, this world wherein a man might arise, go down, and walk along a path and pause and bow to roses, roses his father raised, and admire them, for one moment unable, thank God, to see in each and every flower the world cancelling itself.
Li-Young Lee, "Arise, Go Down" from The City In Which I Love You. Copyright © 1990 by Li-Young Lee. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of BOA Editions, Ltd., a ahref="http://www.boaeditions.org" target=_blank>boaeditions.org.