Nativity and the Children's Hour 

Li-Young Lee was born in 1957 in Jakarta, Indonesia, to Chinese parents. His father had been a personal physician to Mao Zedong while in China, and relocated the family to Indonesia/  In 1959, the Lee family fled the country to escape anti-Chinese sentiment and after a five-year trek through Hong Kong, Macau, and Japan, they settled in the United States in 1964. Lee lives in Chicago, and has been the recipient of several major prizes for poetry.

In the dark, a child might ask, What is the world? Just to hear his sister promise, an unfinished wing of heaven. Just to hear his brother say a house within a house

 But most of all to hear his mother answer, one more song and then you go to sleep.

How could anyone in that bed guess, the question finds its beginning in the answer long growing inside the one who asked, that restless boy the night's darling.

Later a man lying awake, he might ask it again, just to hear the silence charge him, this night arching over your sleepless wondering.

This night the near ground every reach out to overreaches.   Just to remind himself of what little earth and duration, out of what immense good-bye, each one must make a safe place of his heart before so strange and wild a guest as God approaches.

copyright  Li-Young Lee
The Children's Hour

Soldiers with guns are at our door again
Sister quick change into a penny
I'll fold you in a handkerchief,
put you in my pocket
jump inside a sack of uncooked rice.

Brother hurry, turn yourself into one of our mother's dolls
on the living room shelf.
I'll be the dust settling  on your eyelids

The  ones wearing wings are in the yard.
The ones wearing lightning are in the house
The ones wearing stars and carrying knives
are dividing our futures among them.

Don't answer when they call to us in the voice of Nanny
Don't listen when they promise sugar.
Don't come out until evening, or when you hear our mother
weeping to herself.

If only I could become the mirror in her purse, 
I'd never come back  until the end of time. 

copyright  Li-Young Lee