“Seven Happy Endings” by Li-Young Lee

Li-Young Lee


Love, Love, Love, where are we now?
Where did we begin?
I think

one of us wanted to name this,
wanted to call it something!
Shadows on the Garden Wall.
A Man Rowing Alone Out to Sea.
A Song in Search of a Singer.

I think that was me, I wanted to call it something.
And you? You were happy
with a room, two rooms, and a door to divide them.
And daylight on either side of the door.
Borrowed music from an upstairs room.
And bells. Bells from down the street.
Bells to urge our salty hearts.

But I wanted to call it something.
I needed to know what we meant
when we said we, when we said
us, when we said this.

So call it Seven Happy Endings.
That would have been enough.

You see, I woke up one night
and realized I was falling.
I turned on the lamp and the lamp was falling.
And the hand that turned on the lamp was falling.
And the light was falling, and everything the light touched
falling. And you were falling
asleep beside me.
And that was the first happy ending.

And the last one?
it went something like this:

A child sat down, opened a book,
and began to read. And what he read out loud
came to pass. And what he kept to himself
stayed on the other side of the mountains.

But I promised seven happy endings.
I who know nothing about endings.
I who am always at the beginning of everything.
Even as our being together
always feels like beginning.
Not just the beginning of our knowing each other,
but the beginning of reality itself.

See how you and I
make this room so quiet with our presence.

With every word we say
the room grows quieter.

With every word we keep ourselves
from speaking, even quieter.

And now I don’t know where we are.
Still needing to call it something:

A clock the bees unearth,
gathering the over-spilled minutes.

from Rattle #25, Summer 2005
Tribute to the Best of Rattle


Li-Young Lee: “I’m always listening for or trying to feel, just to get a sense of that field of mind that you’re in when you write, when a poem happens, so I’m always feeling around for that. I’m doing that 24 hours a day, and I’m ready to put everything down to write the poem. I got up this morning about 4 a.m. because I thought there was something happening. I wanted to sleep in because I went to bed late last night, but I thought no, no, no, because it doesn’t always happen. So I got up and started writing—nothing came of it, a couple of lines. I don’t have a system. I just feel like I’m doing it all the time.” (web)

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