I didn’t know I was blue, until I heard her sing. I was never aware so much had been lost even before I was born. There was so much to lose even before I knew what it meant to choose. Born blue, living blue unconfessed, blue in concealment, I’ve lived all my life at the plinth of greater things than me. Morning is greater with its firstborn light and birdsong. Noon is taller, though a moment’s realm. Evening is ancient and immense, and night’s storied house more huge. But I had no idea. And would have died without a clue, except she began to sing. And I understood my soul is a bride enthralled by an unmet groom, or else the groom wholly spoken for, blue in ardor, happy in eternal waiting. I heard her sing and knew I would never hear the true name of each thing until I realized the abysmal ground of all things. Her singing touched that ground in me. Now, dying of my life, everything is made new. Now, my life is not my life. I have no life apart from all of life. And my death is not my death, but a pillow beneath my head, a rock propping the window open to admit the jasmine. I heard her sing, and I’m no longer afraid. Now that I know what she knows, I hope never to forget how giant the gone and immaculate the going. How much I’ve already lost. How much I go on losing. How much I’ve lived all one blue. O, how much I go on living.
"Spoken For" from The Undressing by Li-Young Lee. Copyright © 2018 Li-Young Lee. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 20, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
About this Poem
“I heard Kishori Amonkar singing on the album Great Jugalbandis, and I was moved to ecstatic grief. Her singing was so filled with insight and revelation, I suddenly understood in an instant so many things I'd been troubled by and wondering about all my life. I aspire to what she does.”