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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.

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