The Hour and What Is Dead
Tonight my brother, in heavy boots, is walking through bare rooms over my head, opening and closing doors. What could he be looking for in an empty house? What could he possibly need there in heaven? Does he remember his earth, his birthplace set to torches? His love for me feels like spilled water running back to its vessel. At this hour, what is dead is restless and what is living is burning. Someone tell him he should sleep now. My father keeps a light on by our bed and readies for our journey. He mends ten holes in the knees of five pairs of boy's pants. His love for me is like sewing: various colors and too much thread, the stitching uneven. But the needle pierces clean through with each stroke of his hand. At this hour, what is dead is worried and what is living is fugitive. Someone tell him he should sleep now. God, that old furnace, keeps talking with his mouth of teeth, a beard stained at feasts, and his breath of gasoline, airplane, human ash. His love for me feels like fire, feels like doves, feels like river-water. At this hour, what is dead is helpless, kind and helpless. While the Lord lives. Someone tell the Lord to leave me alone. I've had enough of his love that feels like burning and flight and running away.
From The City In Which I Love You by Li-Young Lee. Copyright © 1990 by Li-Young Lee. Reprinted with permission of BOA Editions, Ltd. All rights reserved.
Li-Young Lee was born in 1957 in Jakarta, Indonesia, to Chinese parents.
Date Published: 1990-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/hour-and-what-dead