“The Gift” By Li-Young Lee
This poem is written in free verse, separated into four stanzas each with a varying number of lines and syllables. There is no precise rhyming pattern, but there is a pattern within the usage of words. The speaker uses bodily words such as palm, hands, face, and head at the ends of lines in the second stanza when describing, in the literal form, when the speaker is talking about the experience he went through getting the metal sliver pulled from his palm. The speaker repeats those words when he is describing performing the same process on his wife; remaining just as calm and tender as his father was with him. This poem follows a sequence of events, almost like a timeline. This is true for the literal reading as well as the metaphorical reading of the poem. The “gift” that is passed down from the speaker’s father to him, and then utilized on his wife, is a life lesson. At the age of seven, the speaker takes mental notes of his father and the actions that he made, and uses them when he is about 20 years older. This poem acts as the path the speaker had to take to get where he is today.
The entire poem follows a route; gradually the speaker goes through life learning from his father. This has one exception: the third stanza. This stanza, directly in the middle of the poem, acts as a dividing line between the younger and older years of the speakers’ life. It has 7 lines, (also the age of the speaker in the beginning) and it also doesn’t really flow in the poem. The 2 stanzas prior talk about what happened to him when he was 7, and then the last line of the 3rd stanza and the last stanza talk about life when the speaker was approximately 20 years older. In my opinion this was a smart decision to have these sections divided because it shows how there is a difference between learning something and using it to your advantage later on.
The central metaphor for this poem is that the “gift” that the speakers’ father passes down