A Story

Li-Young Lee

Sad is the man who is asked for a story
and can’t come up with one.

His five-year-old son waits in his lap.
Not the same story, Baba. A new one.
The man rubs his chin, scratches his ear.

In a room full of books in a world
of stories, he can recall
not one, and soon, he thinks, the boy
will give up on his father.

Already the man lives far ahead, he sees
the day this boy will go. Don’t go!
Hear the alligator story! The angel story once more!
You love the spider story. You laugh at the spider.
Let me tell it!

But the boy is packing his shirts,
he is looking for his keys. Are you a god,
the man screams, that I sit mute before you?
Am I a god that I should never disappoint?

But the boy is here. Please, Baba, a story?
It is an emotional rather than logical equation,
an earthly rather than heavenly one,
which posits that a boy’s supplications
and a father’s love add up to silence.

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5 thoughts on “

  1. Maybe my all-time favorite modern poem by my all-time favorite modern poet, “The Road Not Take” by Robert Frost.

    Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
    And sorry I could not travel both
    And be one traveler, long I stood
    And looked down one as far as I could
    To where it bent in the undergrowth;

    Then took the other, as just as fair,
    And having perhaps the better claim,
    Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
    Though as for that the passing there
    Had worn them really about the same,

    And both that morning equally lay
    In leaves no step had trodden black.
    Oh, I kept the first for another day!
    Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
    I doubted if I should ever come back.

    I shall be telling this with a sigh
    Somewhere ages and ages hence:
    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference.

  2. So I'm pretty ignorant of poetry, so do you have any recommendations? I've read a little T.S. Eliot and am a big fan of Chesteron's “Ballad of the White Horse,” but beyond that, I've had a pretty limited exposure.

  3. I can only recommend what I've read and what I like. Li-Young Lee is a metaphysical poet, like John Donne, and I really appreciate his imagery and vocabulary — the words he uses are so luscious! I like Rita Dove's Thomas and Beulah, which is a series of narrative poems about the life of her grandparents. But I have a hard time just sitting down and reading page after page of poetry, so I have my comfortable favorites I can return to when the mood strikes — Lee, Dove, Donne, Hopkins, etc.

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