Descended from Dreamers

by Li-Young Lee


And what did I learn, a child, on the Sabbath?
A father is bound to kill his favorite son,
and to his father's cherishing
the beloved answers Yes.

The rest of the week, I hid from my father,
grateful I was not prized. But how deserted
he looked, with no son who pleased him.

And what else did I learn?
That light is born of dark to usurp its ancient rank.
And when a pharaoh dreams of ears of wheat
or grazing cows, it means
he's seen the shapes of the oncoming years.

The rest of my life I wondered: Are there dreams
that help us to understand the past? Or

is any looking back a waste of time,
the whole of it a too finely woven
net of innumerable conditions,
causes, effects, countereffects, impossible
to read? Like rain on the surface of a pond.

Where's Joseph when you need him?
Did Jacob, his father, understand
the dream of the ladder? Or did his enduring
its mystery make him richer?

**

Why are you crying? my father asked
in my dream, in a which we faced each other,
knees touching, seated in a moving train.

He had recently died,
and I was wondering if my life would ever begin.

Looking out the window,
one of us witnessed what kept vanishing,
while the other watched what continually emerged.



from "Behind my Eyes" by Li-Young Lee
W.W. Norton 2008

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