....When my father asked me in the morning, and I lied to him. Have you prayed?, I said, Yes.
I never felt guilty about it until a few months ago (hes been dead for twenty-some years), I heard his voice asking me, Have you prayed?", and I felt immense guilt.
Have You Prayed
When the wind
turns and asks, in my fathers voice,
Have you prayed?
I know three things: One:
Im not finished answering to the dead.
Two: A man is four winds and three fires.
And the four winds are his fathers voice,
his mothers voice...
Or maybe hes seven winds and ten fires.
And the fires are seeing, hearing, touching,
dreaming, thinking, is he the breath of God?
When the wind turns traveler
and asks, in my fathers voice, Have you prayed?
I remember three things. One: A fathers love
is milk and sugar,
two-thirds worry, two-thirds grief, and whats left over
is trimmed and leavened to make the bread
the dead and the living share.
And patience? Thats to endure
the terrible leavening and kneading.
And wisdom? Thats my fathers face in sleep.
When the wind asks, Have you prayed? I know
its only me reminding myself
a flower is one station between
earths wish and earths rapture, and blood
was fire, salt, and breath long before
it quickened any wand or branch, any limb
that woke speaking. Its just me
in the gowns of the wind,
or my father through me, asking,
Have you found your refuge yet?
asking, Are you happy?
Funny, a troubled father, a happy son
A wind with a voice. And me without one.
Have You Prayed, copyright 2002 by Li-Young Lee. Printed by permission of author.
Li-Young Lee. Poet, writer. Chinese, Indonesian born. Lives: Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. Mr. Lee is the author of three poetry collections-- Rose, The City in Which I Love You (Lamont Poetry Prize winner), Book of My Nights-- and The Winged Seed, A Remembrance. The recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the NEA, Lees awards include the Lannan Literary Award, the Whiting Award, the PEN Josephine Miles Award, and the I.B. Lavan Award.