Study Guide

Early in the Morning

by Li-Young Lee

Early in the Morning eText - eText

Text of the Poem

While the long grain is softening
in the water, gurgling
over a low stove flame, before
the salted Winter Vegetable is sliced
for breakfast, before the birds,                            5
my mother glides an ivory comb
through her hair, heavy
and black as calligrapher’s ink.
She sits at the foot of the bed.

My father watches, listens for                             10
the music of comb
against hair.
My mother combs,
pulls her hair back
tight, rolls it                                                       15
around two fingers, pins it
in a bun to the back of her head.
For half a hundred years she has done this.
My father likes to see it like this.
He says it is kempt.                                            20

But I know
it is because of the way
my mother’s hair falls
when he pulls the pins out.
Easily, like the curtains                                       25
when they untie them in the evening.