Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Black Petal

This poem feels. I love this.

Black Petal

by Li-Young Lee

I never claimed night fathered me.

that was my dead brother talking in his sleep.

I keep him under my pillow, a dear wish

that colors my laughing and crying.

I never said the wind, remembering nothing,

leaves so many rooms unaccounted for,

continual farewell must ransom

the unmistakable fragrance

our human days afford.

It was my brother, little candle in the pulpit,

reading out loud to all of earth

from the book of night.

He died too young to learn his name.

Now he answers to Vacant Boat,

Burning Wing, My Black Petal.

Ask him who his mother is. He'll declare the birds

have eaten the path home, but each of us

joins night's ongoing story

wherever night overtakes him,

the heart astonished to find belonging

and thanks answering thanks.

Ask if he's hungry or thirsty,

he'll say he's the bread come to pass

and draw you a map

to the twelve secret hips of honey.

Does someone want to know the way to spring?

He'll remind you

the flower was never meant to survive

the fruit's triumph.

He says an apple's most secret cargo

is the enduring odor of a human childhood,

our mother's linen pressed and stored, our father's voice

walking through the rooms.

He says he's forgiven our sister

for playing dead and making him cry

those afternoons we were left alone in the house.

And when clocks frighten me with their long hair,

and when I spy the wind's numerous hands

in the orchard unfastening

first the petals from the buds,

then the perfume from the flesh,

my dead brother ministers to me. His voice

weighs nothing

but the far years between

stars in their massive dying,

and I grow quiet hearing

how many of both of our tomorrows

lie waiting inside it to be born.

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