Behind My Eyes: Poems

Li-Young Lee

Li-Young Lee doesn’t publish a prodigious number of poems, but each has weight and heft, which explains the anticipation surrounding his fourth volume. Both birds (some identified, some simply feathery presences) and breath are invoked as markers for memory. Rather than impose adult reason on the child’s fragmented memory, the poem’s speaker relives moments as fragile as the bones of birds, as in these lines from “A Hymn to Childhood”: “Grief in the heard dove at evening, / and plentitude in the unseen bird / tolling at morning. Still slow to tell / memory from imagination, heaven / from here and now, / hell from here and now, / death from childhood, and both of them / from dreaming.” The past flies by in these poems, as immediate as a rush of air through feathers.