Li-Young Lee

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“The Familiar Dust of Summer”

Today’s New York Times┬ácontains an article titled “The Poems That Poets Turn to in a Time of Strife.” It includes the recommendations of poets who seek comfort, escape, or fiery calls to action in this amazing spring of righteous upheaval.

Last in the list is my good friend (I met him in Salem, and if you ask him about me, he’ll say, “Who?”) Ocean Vuong’s recommendation. It’s Rose: Poems by Li-Young Lee. Researching Lee, an American poet born to Chinese parents in Jakarta, Indonesia, brought me to a poem that could have come out of Georgia or most any state where peach trees take root (includes New England, my stomping grounds).

Take a look at Lee’s “From Blossoms” and see if you’re like me, someone who plans to seek out his book for further readings.


From Blossoms
Li-Young Lee

From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.


Rather uncanny, how we move from wonderful description of the humble peach to joy. It makes joy, an otherwise wisely-avoided and totally unwieldy topic in poetry, approachable and, contrasted with death, most beautiful indeed, especially seen through the metaphor of blossoms — like lots of things in life, “sweet impossible blossoms.”