About the poet
Li-Young Lee (b. 1957) draws on his Chinese-American heritage in his poems, in particular his...
Have You Prayed?
Have You Prayed
When the wind
turns and asks, in my father's voice,
Have you prayed?
I know three things. One:
I'm never finished answering to the dead.
Two: A man is four winds and three fires.
And the four winds are his father's voice,
his mother's voice...
Or maybe he's seven winds and ten fires.
And the fires are seeing, hearing, touching,
Or is he the breath of God?
When the wind turns traveler
and asks, in my father's voice, Have you prayed?
I remember three things.
One: A father's love
is milk and sugar,
two-thirds worry, two-thirds grief, and what's left over
is trimmed and leavened to make the bread
the dead and the living share.
And patience? That's to endure
the terrible leavening and kneading.
And wisdom? That's my father's face in sleep.
When the wind
asks, Have you prayed?
I know it's only me
a flower is one station between
earth's wish and earth's rapture, and blood
was fire, salt, and breath long before
it quickened any wand or branch, any limb
that woke speaking. It's just me
in the gowns of the wind,
or my father through me, asking,
Have you found your refuge yet?
asking, Are you happy?
Strange. A troubled father. A happy son.
The wind with a voice. And me talking to no one.
from Behind My Eyes (W W Norton, 2008), copyright © 2008 by Li-Young Lee, used by permission of W W Norton & Company, Inc.