Lie still now
while I prepare for my future,
certain hard days ahead,
when I’ll need what I know so clearly this moment.

I am making use
of the one thing I learned
of all the things my father tried to teach me:
the art of memory.

I am letting this room
and everything in it
stand for my ideas about love
and its difficulties.

I’ll let your love-cries,
those spacious notes
of a moment ago,
stand for distance.

Your scent,
that scent
of spice and a wound,
I’ll 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 can’t 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,

I’ll close my eyes
and recall this room and everything in it:
My body is estrangement.
This desire, perfection.
Your closed eyes my extinction.
Now I’ve forgotten my
idea. The book
on the windowsill, riffled by wind…
the even-numbered pages are
the past, the odd-
numbered pages, the future.
The sun is
God, your body is milk…

useless, useless…
your cries are song, my body’s not me…
no good … my idea
has evaporated…your hair is time, your thighs are song…
it had something to do
with death…it had something
to do with love.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Li-Young Lee's poem This Room And Everything In It


  1. Jackson Wholkler says:

    That you’re all wrong. I was good friends with Lee when he was in Pittsburg growing up. Dude smoked a LOT of weed. He gets high, writes these minimalist poems after screwing his wife Donna, and then gets dumbshit pseudo intellectuals like all y’all to scratch you’re heads over em. And he’s gettin’ famous! Haha. Blaze one, read his collections, and you’ll get it.

  2. pagliacci says:

    I don’t see this as a man losing his virginity, but as a man realizing how love transcends the mere physicality of “love-making.” Yes, the speaker is in post-coital bliss, but the bliss is more informed by his acknowledgement that the intense connection he and his lover have made is more than just sexual. The first stanza certainly prepares us for this, as the speaker realizes he’ll “need what I know so clearly this moment,” perhaps when he may doubt their love for one another, as in any real relationship.

    Everything about the setting will contribute to his being able to attach tangible things to a deeply emotional response. If he can look back and remember the room, the book, her belly, the sun’s reflection…he’ll be able to tap into that mystery that so utterly consumes him and conjure the feelings he carries at that moment.

    This, along with EE Cummings’ “somewhere i have never travelled,” is one of the most beautiful, heartfelt evocations I’ve ever read.

  3. CECILIA & KELLAN says:

    WOW. this is FLIPPIN confusing. but we’re smart. so. we, like amanda, believe that this poem is the first time the speaker had sex. All these things that he talks about (“love-cries, scent etc”) are all the things he wants to remember- when the love with this woman evaporates. He wants to stash all these memories of his sexual endeavors in “this room and everything in it” so that he may look back on it when the time comes- when he feels that love will not … BUT THE ONE THING we do not understand is this last stanza, where he all of sudden, FORGETS wtf his idea is about… WHAT DOES THIS MEEEEEANNNN??? WTF 0_0. when he describes the book, on the windowsill, we believe that this is the point in his “love makin” that he is completely “into it” so that time seems endless, like the flipping of the pages, and the flipping from past to present will not stop- his memories and future is flashing before his eyes. -whoa- deep eh? the line “useless, useless” seems to imply that love itself is useless and that all it is is sex, and nothing comes from it. but he still seems to have hope, and wants to find the true meaning of love- he’ll never stop looking.. one thing we also don’t get is “your closed eyes my extinction.” we looked up the word extinction and the psychological meaning was the loss of excitability, which totally didn’t make sense in the poem. (please, if anyone knows get back to us) THANKKKYUUUUU. lee is such a kool man. >__< -KELLAN & CECILIA

  4. amanda says:

    so i read this poem and at first i didnt know what to make of it. i had no idea of what it could have been about. I thought about it, though, and came to the understanding of it being about the first time the narrator made love. there are certain lines in the poem i didnt understand though and threw me off a little bit… if anyone wants to respond to this via my e-mail acount please feel free… thank you and have a nice day everyone.

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