This Room And Everything In It

By Li-Young Lee

Lie still now
while I prepare for my future,
certain hard days ahead,
when I’ll need what I know so clearly this moment.
 
I am making use
of the one thing I learned
of all the things my father tried to teach me:
the art of memory.
 
I am letting this room
and everything in it
stand for my ideas about love
and its difficulties.
 
I’ll let your love-cries,
those spacious notes
of a moment ago,
stand for distance.
 
Your scent,
that scent
of spice and a wound,
I’ll let stand for mystery.
 
Your sunken belly
is the daily cup
of milk I drank
as a boy before morning prayer.
The sun on the face
of the wall
is God, the face
I can’t see, my soul,
 
and so on, each thing
standing for a separate idea,
and those ideas forming the constellation
of my greater idea.
And one day, when I need
to tell myself something intelligent
about love,
 
I’ll close my eyes
and recall this room and everything in it:
My body is estrangement.
This desire, perfection.
Your closed eyes my extinction.
Now I’ve forgotten my
idea. The book
on the windowsill, riffled by wind . . .
the even-numbered pages are
the past, the odd-
numbered pages, the future.
The sun is
God, your body is milk . . .
 
useless, useless . . .
your cries are song, my body’s not me . . .
no good . . . my idea
has evaporated . . . your hair is time, your thighs are song . . .
it had something to do
with death . . . it had something
to do with love.

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