Li-Young Lee, Early in the Morning

This poem is from a book called Rose, by Li-Young Lee. Every poem in this book is lovely. I wanted to share a complete poem and while many in this book are short enough, it’s my husband’s birthday, so I thought this one was good.

Early In the Morning

While the long grain is softening
in the water, gurgling
over a low stove flame, before
the salted Winter Vegetable is sliced
for breakfast, before the birds,
my mother glides an ivory comb
through her hair, heavy and black as calligrapher's ink.

She sits at the foot of the bed.
My father watches, listens for
the music of comb
against hair.

My mother combs, 
pulls her hair back
tight, rolls it
around two fingers, pins it
in a bun to the back of her head.
For half a hundred years she has done this.
My father likes to see it like this.
He says it is kempt.

But I know
it is because of the way
my mother's hair falls
when he pulls the pin out.
Easily, like the curtains
when they untie them in the evening. 

copyright 1986 Li-Young Lee

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