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Braiding Analysis

Author: poem of Li-Young Lee Type: poem Views: 8

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We two sit on our bed, you

between my legs, your back to me, your head

slightly bowed, that I may brush and braid

your hair. My father

did this for my mother,

just as I do for you. One hand

holds the hem of you hair, the other

works the brush. Both hands climb

as the strokes grow

longer, until I use not only my wrists,

but my arms, then my shoulders, my whole body

rocking in a rower's rhythm, a lover's

even time, as the tangles are undone,

and brush and bare hand run the thick,

fluent length of your hair, whose wintry scent

comes, a faint, human musk.


Last night the room was so cold

I dreamed we were in Pittsburgh again, where winter

persisted and we fell asleep in the last seat

of the 71 Negley, dark mornings going to work.

How I wish we didn't hate those years

while we lived them.

Those were days of books,

days of silences stacked high

as the ceiling of that great, dim hall

where we studied. I remember

the thick, oak tabletops, how cool

they felt against my face

when I lay my head down and slept.


How long your hair has grown.

Gradually, December.


There will come a day

one of us will have to imagine this: you,

after your bath, crosslegged on the bed, sleepy, patient,

while I braid your hair.


Here, what's made, these braids, unmakes

itself in time, and must be made

again, within and against

time. So I braid

your hair each day.

My fingers gather, measure hair,

hook, pull and twist hair and hair.

Deft, quick, they plait,

weave, articulate lock and lock, to make

and make these braids, which point

the direction of my going, of all our continuous going.

And though what's made does not abide,

my making is steadfast, and, besides, there is a making

of which this making-in-time is just a part,

a making which abides

beyond the hands which rise in the combing,

the hands which fall in the braiding,

trailing hair in each stage of its unbraiding.


Love, how the hours accumulate. Uncountable.

The trees grow tall, some people walk away

and diminish forever.

The damp pewter days slip around without warning

and we cross over one year and one year.


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