the birds declared my whereabouts

Posted by on May 16, 2012

The pool at Dumbarton Oaks © 2012 Julia Mason Wickes.

The pool at Dumbarton Oaks © 2012 Julia Mason Wickes.


Out of Hiding

by Li-Young Lee

Someone said my name in the garden,

while I grew smaller
in the spreading shadow of the peonies,

grew larger by my absence to another,
grew older among the ants, ancient

under the opening heads of the flowers,
new to myself, and stranger.

When I heard my name again, it sounded far,
like the name of the child next door,
or a favorite cousin visiting for the summer,

while the quiet seemed my true name,
a near and inaudible singing
born of hidden ground.

Quiet to quiet, I called back.
And the birds declared my whereabouts all morning.

* * *
I am a little late posting a poem today, yet again, so do forgive me if you are one of the tiny minority of people out there who is counting on me hosting Poetry Wednesday. The fatal flaw is that I have been setting aside Wednesday mornings to do this work, when clearly I need to be taking Tuesday mornings off so that I can get this post done in advance. And today I squandered my morning applying for a job in Saint Louis. Just kidding about the squandered part.

I had to post an emotional garden poem today, with the added bonus of a reference to birdsong, because on Sunday, Mother’s Day, we lost our keys to the kingdom. That is, they were taken away from us. That is, Jeff had to relinquish his electronic badge that gave him (and me by extension) free and private access to the gardens at Dumbarton Oaks. I feel this more keenly than I ever expected to, in addition to the mass exodus of all of the fellows who shared a very intense life with us here for the last nine months.

I will not write much more today. The spring here continues to be beautiful and slowly turns into a summer. In my heart, I am trying to look forward, not backward, even while caught against my will in a sort of in-between place.

  1. Kate T.
    May 16, 2012

    That is tragic about the garden access! When do you head to St. L? I so wish we were heading home soon. Sending sympathetic packing-up and job-hunting thoughts your way.

  2. A M B E R
    May 16, 2012

    I am sad with you! I have so enjoyed peeking into those uncannily beautiful gardens. You will remember these days so fondly, those gardens are an entrance into a totally new life.