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A Story – A Poem by Li-Young Lee

  • 1aleeyoungLi

  • Happy birthday Li-Young Lee

    He was born in Jakarta, Indonesia, to Chinese parents.
    Lee’s father, who was a personal physician to Mao Zedong while in China, relocated his family to Indonesia, where he helped found Gamaliel University. His father was exiled and spent 19 months in an Indonesian prison camp in Macau. In 1959 the Lee family fled the country to escape anti-Chinese sentiment and after a five-year trek through Hong Kong and Japan, they settled in the United States in 1964.

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    Hikari Oe (Kenzaburo Oe’s composer son who was born with autism)

    A Story – Poem by Li-Young Lee

    Sad is the man who is asked for a story
    and can’t come up with one.

    His five-year-old son waits in his lap.
    Not the same story, Baba. A new one.
    The man rubs his chin, scratches his ear.

    In a room full of books in a world
    of stories, he can recall
    not one, and soon, he thinks, the boy
    will give up on his father.

    Already the man lives far ahead, he sees
    the day this boy will go. Don’t go!
    Hear the alligator story! The angel story once more!
    You love the spider story. You laugh at the spider.
    Let me tell it!

    But the boy is packing his shirts,
    he is looking for his keys. Are you a god,
    the man screams, that I sit mute before you?
    Am I a god that I should never disappoint?

    But the boy is here. Please, Baba, a story?
    It is an emotional rather than logical equation,
    an earthly rather than heavenly one,
    which posits that a boy’s supplications
    and a father’s love add up to silence.
    Li-Young Lee

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