I Ask My Mother To Sing

July 19, 2006 at 6:11 pm 9 comments

Li-Young Lee

Listen (to Lee read)

She begins, and my grandmother joins her.
Mother and daughter sing like young girls.
If my father were alive, he would play
his accordion and sway like a boat.

I’ve never been in Peking, or the Summer Palace,
nor stood on the great Stone Boat to watch
the rain begin on Kuen Ming Lake, the picnickers
running away in the grass.

But I love to hear it sung;
how the waterlilies fill with rain until
they overturn, spilling water into water,
then rock back, and fill with more.

Both women have begun to cry,
But neither stops her song.

Lee, Li-Young. Rose. Rochester, N.Y.: BOA Editions, Ltd., 1986.

Nostalgia for a place you have never been and fond memories of things you have never experienced. These become an integral part of our identity – the idealized and unreal images we carry with us. Was it Nietzsche who said, ‘art is worth more than the truth’. What are memories if not art?

I particularly like the image of the waterlilies fill with rain until/they overturn, spilling water into water,/then rock back, and fill with more. Almost sounds like he is translating a verse from Kalidasa’s Abhijñānaśākuntalam. :)

Lee on poets.org – here.



Entry filed under: Black Mamba, English, Li-Young Lee.

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9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Falstaff  |  July 19, 2006 at 6:26 pm

    Nice. Love the juxtaposition of the spilling waterlilies and the crying women.

  • 2. Zinnia  |  November 3, 2006 at 6:45 am

    Can u please explain the connotation of this poem for me?
    Is Lee mourning for her father?
    It’s hard for me to understand~~~

  • 3. Tiy  |  March 29, 2007 at 11:12 pm

    i luv this poem, and i have to put this poem in my notebook for my poetry project due Thursday,April 5,2007.

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  • 6. mike  |  May 17, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    you r all gay for reading this

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