Born in Indonesia of Chinese ancestry, Li- Young Lee emigrated with his family to the United States in 1964. At one time, while still living in China, his father Richard had served as Mao Zedong's personal physician; later he helped found Gamaliel University in Jakarta. Wrongly accused of sedition by the Sukarno government, he was imprisoned. On his release, the family fled the country and for five years wandered from Hong Kong to Macao to Japan before finally settling in rural Pennsylvania, where Lee's father attended the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and became a Presbyterian minister. Lee himself graduated from the University of Pittsburgh, and pursued graduate studies at the University of Arizona and the State University of New York at Brockport. In a memoir, Lee recalls that his father always carried in his right suit-pocket a small handful of seeds, and when he asked his father why, the reply was "Remembrance." In their own way, Lee's poems are like black seeds in the white pockets of his books' pages. They remember tenderly his father's fate and his family's fortunes. But beyond that, his meditations-sometimes intense, sometimes evanescent- focus on the idea of boundaries. Identity is one, relationships another, and Lee threads his way through the margins and paradoxes of both.
[from “The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Poetry”, 2nd Edition]
Look at the birds. Even flying
out of nothing. The first sky
is inside you, open
at either end of day.
The work of wings
was always freedom, fastening
one heart to every falling thing.
As though touching her
might make him known to himself,
as though his hand moving
over her body might find who
he is, as though he lay inside her, a country
his hand's traveling uncovered,
as though such a country arose
continually up out of her
to meet his hand's setting forth and setting forth.
And the places on her body have no names.
And she is what's immense about the night.
And their clothes on the floor are arranged
THAT LITTLE SOMETHING
-for Li-Young Lee
The likelihood of ever finding it is small.
It's like being accosted by a woman
And asked to help her look for a pearl
She lost right here in the street.
She could be making it all up,
Even her tears, you say to yourself,
As you search under your feet,
Thinking, Not in a million years ...
It's one of those summer afternoons
When one needs a good excuse
To step out of a cool shade.
In the meantime, what ever became of her?
And why, years later, do you still,
Off and on, cast your eyes to the ground
As you hurry to some appointment
Where you are now certain to arrive late?
Dịch theo kiểu classic :
Một chút gì
Sẽ chẳng bao giờ biết được đâu
Chút gì rất nhẹ ... tựa hôm nào
Nàng đến kề bên, nhờ tìm giúp
Giữa đường rơi một hạt minh châu
Có thể rằng Nàng bịa đấy thôi
E rằng nước mắt cũng vờ rơi
Mắt dò dưới chân, lòng thầm nghĩ
Tìm suốt triệu năm cũng chỉ hoài
Hôm ấy, một chiều của mùa hè
Cuồng chân trong bóng mát im che
Viện trăm ngàn cớ mà ra khỏi ...
Còn Nàng , vì cớ gì vậy kìa ?
Thế thôi mà sao sau bao năm
Thi thoảng mắt lại dò mặt đường
Những lần vội đến nơi hò hẹn
Dù biết mười mươi, trễ, chuyện thường