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Updated: May 28

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.