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‘Eating Together’ is a short poem written by Li-Young Lee. It revolves around the demise of a loved one, and how it deeply affects those surrounding them.
About the Poet:
Li-Young Lee (1957-) is a prominent American poet. He is famed for being the great-grandson of Yuan Shikai, China’s first Republican President. Famous works of his include ‘From Blossoms’, ‘The City In Which I Love You’, and ‘Book of my Nights’.
Explanation of the Poem:
In the steamer is the trout seasoned with slivers of ginger, two sprigs of green onion, and sesame oil. We shall eat it with rice for lunch, brothers, sister, my mother who will taste the sweetest meat of the head, holding it between her fingers deftly, the way my father did weeks ago. Then he lay down to sleep like a snow-covered road winding through pines older than him, without any travelers, and lonely for no one.
The poem begins with an air of domesticity. The persona states that in the steamer, trout, a kind of fish, was cooking along with ginger, green onion, and sesame oil. The persona goes on to state that once cooked, ‘we’ that is, the persona and their family, will eat it along with rice for lunch.
The family consists of the persona, their brothers, their sister, and their mother. Their mother, they state, would now eat first the head of the meat just as their father had ‘weeks ago’. It is only now revealed that the persona’s father had passed away.
The persona grieves for their father. They mourn their loss, agonizing over the fact that their father was laid to ‘sleep’ like a ‘snow-covered road’ without any travelers in it. They are thus saddened that their father would be all alone.
This is a heart-wrenching poem. Starting on a deceptively simple note, it progresses to shed light on the loss suffered by loved ones in the wake of one passing away.