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More poems by Li-Young LeeLi-Young Lee | Print this page.Print | View and Write CommentsComments (6) | Books by Li-Young LeeBooks by Li-Young Lee

Persimmons

Li-Young Lee

In sixth grade Mrs. Walker 
slapped the back of my head 
and made me stand in the corner 
for not knowing the difference 
between persimmon and precision. 
How to choose 

persimmons. This is precision. 
Ripe ones are soft and brown-spotted. 
Sniff the bottoms. The sweet one 
will be fragrant. How to eat: 
put the knife away, lay down the newspaper. 
Peel the skin tenderly, not to tear the meat. 
Chew on the skin, suck it, 
and swallow. Now, eat 
the meat of the fruit, 
so sweet, 
all of it, to the heart. 

Donna undresses, her stomach is white. 
In the yard, dewy and shivering 
with crickets, we lie naked, 
face-up, face-down, 
I teach her Chinese. 
Crickets: chiu chiu. Dew: I've forgotten. 
Naked: I've forgotten. 
Ni, wo: you and me. 
I part her legs, 
remember to tell her 
she is beautiful as the moon. 

Other words 
that got me into trouble were 
fight and fright, wren and yarn. 
Fight was what I did when I was frightened, 
fright was what I felt when I was fighting. 
Wrens are small, plain birds, 
yarn is what one knits with. 
Wrens are soft as yarn. 
My mother made birds out of yarn. 
I loved to watch her tie the stuff; 
a bird, a rabbit, a wee man. 

Mrs. Walker brought a persimmon to class 
and cut it up 
so everyone could taste 
a Chinese apple. Knowing 
it wasn't ripe or sweet, I didn't eat 
but watched the other faces. 

My mother said every persimmon has a sun 
inside, something golden, glowing, 
warm as my face. 

Once, in the cellar, I found two wrapped in newspaper, 
forgotten and not yet ripe. 
I took them and set them both on my bedroom windowsill, 
where each morning a cardinal 
sang, The sun, the sun. 

Finally understanding 
he was going blind, 
my father sat up all one night 
waiting for a song, a ghost. 
I gave him the persimmons, 
swelled, heavy as sadness, 
and sweet as love. 

This year, in the muddy lighting 
of my parents' cellar, I rummage, looking 
for something I lost. 
My father sits on the tired, wooden stairs, 
black cane between his knees, 
hand over hand, gripping the handle. 
He's so happy that I've come home. 
I ask how his eyes are, a stupid question. 
All gone, he answers. 

Under some blankets, I find a box.
Inside the box I find three scrolls. 
I sit beside him and untie 
three paintings by my father: 
Hibiscus leaf and a white flower. 
Two cats preening. 
Two persimmons, so full they want to drop from the cloth. 

He raises both hands to touch the cloth, 
asks, Which is this? 

This is persimmons, Father. 

Oh, the feel of the wolftail on the silk, 
the strength, the tense 
precision in the wrist. 
I painted them hundreds of times 
eyes closed. These I painted blind. 
Some things never leave a person: 
scent of the hair of one you love, 
the texture of persimmons, 
in your palm, the ripe weight.

Added: 25 Feb 2002 | Last Read: 31 Oct 2014 1:28 AM | Viewed: 28626 times

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URL: http://plagiarist.com/poetry/2809/ | Viewed on 31 October 2014.
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