My grandfather let me grind the slim
ink-stick on the stone, mixing in a teaspoon
of water from a mug on the desk beside him
as back-lit morning flooded the room.
The ink clouded the blackest black. Even
the black of my hair did not gloss so deep,
while on the page he spun out woven
characters with a flick of his wrist, free.
His hands, rough where lifeline
crossed the warm expanse of palm,
curved lightly around to surround my
fingers. "Jing, This is your name.
A roof over the head of a king
The secret of illuminating joy
The golden tint of your skin
Your ancestors and today." The lilt in his voice
I hear in dreams, a language lost as I grew.
He held the brush in spider-fingers spread apart,
the punctuation before the stroke flew
sweeping, heavy and deliberate.
Now he is old in many ways,
mirrored gray eyes
in the subtle creases of a face
and a voice I cannot recognize.