Dean and I went to hear Li-Young Lee at Seattle Arts & Lectures last night. He is an interesting character: very self-effacing, non-linear in his thinking and presentation. I was put off a little by the shtick he does, fumbling about with his papers at the lectern, not sure what he is going to read, starting and stopping and unable to speak a complete thought. Maybe he thinks it helps put him and the audience at ease? I find it annoying. Still, I loved many of the poems, and also his discussion of the concept of "I and Thou."
He didn't read one of my favorite poems from the book though:
"We can't stay where we are,
and we don't know where else to go,"
is the first card my mother deals. We're playing
her deluxe edition of "Memories
from the 20th Century."
"Dead Baby," "Mystery Bundles," "Cleansing by Sacrifice."
Seven cards apiece and the object is not to die.
"Exodus," "Eyes Snatched Away,"
"Superstition at the Side of the Road."
All cards are good or bad depending on how you play them.
"Defeated by Wings," "Eating Forbidden Blood."
No card possesses inherent value.
"Among the Lepers," "Burial by the Solo River,"
"The Extracted Oil."
Every player begins in bondage.
Every player eventually dies. Everybody plays
whether they know or don't know they're playing.
Maybe this isn't a game.
Maybe it's World Evening News.
Maybe this time I'll rescue my mother.
I can't tell if I thought that or if she said it.
-- Li-Young Lee
from Behind My Eyes
Maybe this isn't the news.
Maybe this is a dream God is having
and somebody should wake Him.
Good boat, first boat, old boat. Mother,
my first night with you lasted nine months.
Our second night together is the rest of my life.