/This desire, perfection./Your closed eyes my extinction./Now Ive forgotten my/idea…. (Lee, 2002, This Room and Everything in it)
Each work demonstrates how easy it is to become complacent about the mundane character of even the most sincere of emotional expression, that of sensual love and then makes an attempt to etch something that is essential to life into memory, as Lee was taught to do by his father. Lee, as a child gave riper persimmons to his father and the persimmons became a tool of symbolism for the child, as he grew to a man;
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. (Lee, 2002, Persimmons)
The poignant memory of a young boy offering his father a consoling gift of two now ripened persimmons that he had found in the cellar, and coveted through the experience of their ripening on his boyhood window sill becomes imagery in which the father teaches the son, the lessons of memory once again. The men are sitting together as Lee again has found a treasure in the cellar, a group of scrolls that his father has painted;
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. (Lee, 2002, Persimmons)
There is a clear sense that in this short but symbolic exchange between father and son there is an expression of memory that is essential to the future life of the poet. A future life he expresses, through the lessons of memory in his work This Room and Everything in it.
I am letting this room / and everything in it / stand for my ideas about love and its difficulties.
Ill let your love-cries, / those spacious notes / of a moment ago, / stand for distance.
Your scent,/that scent/of spice and a wound,/Ill let stand for mystery.
Your sunken belly / is the daily cup / of milk I drank / as a boy before morning prayer.
The sun on the face / of the wall / is God, the face / I cant see, my soul, and so on, each thing / standing for a separate idea, / and those ideas forming the constellation / of my greater idea./and one day, when I need / to tell myself something intelligent / about love,
Ill close my eyes / and recall this room and everything in it…(Lee, 2002, This Room and Everything in it)
The value of this memory exercise for making the poet see and express through memorable symbols mundane experiences of the present is essential to his style as a poet and is reflective of the core of each of these works. The works both demonstrate the need to etch in memory the symbolic nature of simple pleasures so they may be recalled as life moves forward, and one forgets or in the case of Lee as le petit mort (the little death) of sensual climax washes away that which is important to remember.
Lee, Li-Young, This Room and Everything in it. Retrieved November, 5, 2008 http://plagiarist.com/poetry/2816/2002.
Lee, Li-Young, Persimmons. Retrieved November,.