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Updated: May 28, 2023

Girls who play Guqin have beautiful hands.


long fingers

dancing—swaying, flickering

—across the strings

of woven silk.

The sound echoes in your bones.

The resonance of steel

a river coursing through earth.


so very soft, tender.

smoke lingering in air.

Like bamboo.

White silk on the gown

of an Empress.

Melodies transcending dynasties—

The sky and the soil are held in

everything we make;

the earth breathes in the pentatonic scale.

This, I take pride in.

But these

are roots that will


feel like my own.



is the color of

china blue.

Cerulean veins on milk white urns—

the kind of stillness that you hold your breath

in the presence of.

Cold. Like

my mother’s Qipao.

Fine blue and white

chafes against my body:

a pebble weathered by

another sea.

Cold as my skin is warm.


as oil

and water.


My name means knowing peace.

Jia Wen.

It carries the weight of an ocean:

Bliss; serenity at the bottom of a


Its consonants are gentle,

Tailored to

take flight


one’s lips

like a loving whisper.

Yet the way it disconnects

from my own

pricks of foreign air.


‘300 Poems of the Tang Dynasty’.

Summer evenings with my mother

at the small kitchen table

as she teaches me to recite each verse.

I sought escape

then. Peeled at the shriveled paint

underneath the chair.

I can no longer read those delicate lines.

The language is still my own

but its characters,

its intimacy



through the cracks of my memory.

In the glass box I keep,

a collection of recollections,


I take them out and run my fingers

over the pages.

These are the things I used to know.

And yet

Feeling escapes past disconnection.

Heng Shui

steady waters

is the name of my Grandmother’s hometown.

The spices of that place

The bamboo flute

My father’s dialect

touches my

bones in a way that nothing ever could.

And so

My hands fall through

the longing

as they fall through shui muo paintings:

transient ink and mist.

The knowledge that my heritage exists

ingrained in me

Never to touch, only to keep—wisps that

surround me, protect me.

A river through earth, smoke lingering in air.

The way it should be.

And so,

The sound of the Guqin is homesickness.


A nostalgia for a hometown

so very past.

And every so

often, for a time you have never lived.


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