japonisme: Early in the Morning

07 January 2007

Early in the Morning

Early in the Morning ....

While the long grain is soft- ening
in the water, gurgling
over a low stove flame, before
the salted Winter Vegetable is sliced
for breakfast, before the birds,
my mother glides an ivory comb
through her hair, heavy
and black as calligrapher's ink.

She sits at the foot of the bed.
My father watches, listens for
the music of comb
against hair.

My mother combs,
pulls her hair back
tight, rolls it
around two fingers, pins it
in a bun to the back of her head.
For half a hundred years she has done this.
My father likes to see it like this.
He says it is kempt.

But I know
it is because of the way
my mother's hair falls
when he pulls the pins out.

Easily, like the curtains

when they untie them in the evening.

-- Li-Young Lee, ©1986.


(Li-Young Lee was born in 1957 in Jakarta, Indonesia, of Chinese parents. In 1959, his father, after spending a year as a political prisoner in President Sukarno's jails, fled Indonesia with his family. Between 1959 and 1964 they traveled in Hong Kong, Macau, and Japan, until arriving in America. Rose, the book from which this poem is taken, was published by BOA Editions, Ltd. upper left: utamaro kitagawa; edgar degas; gotosei kunisada; henri-edmond cross; utamaro kitagawa; edgar degas; gotosei kunisada.)

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6 Comments:

Blogger Nathako said...

Very beautiful text :-)
I have long hair too, I can imagine the sensation! At this time, all japanese women had long hair...

07 January, 2007 02:43  
Blogger Florence said...

a beautiful poem.

I particularly like the first print by Utamaro Kitagawa. The green takes on a richness of tone next to the calm grey background - evocative of images of the lotus leaf and watery places that bring on emerald growth.

xx

07 January, 2007 06:42  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Very nice text and pictures.

10 January, 2007 15:24  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

i am so glad you all like them. i have loved that li-young lee poem so many years and it was wonderful to have someplace to showcase it.

nathako--i like the way you found to respond so personally.

florence--mmmmmmmmm :^)

and thanks, david

10 January, 2007 22:37  
Blogger Princess Haiku said...

These images are lovely and this is a poet I much enjoy. Have your read his book of prose, "The Winged Seed?" I am sure you would enjoy it if you haven't.

02 February, 2007 09:11  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

i didn't know he did prose--thank you! i'd love to check it out.

02 February, 2007 14:10  

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