“The sound of rain
outlives us.”
                                —Li-Young Lee

What outlives even the rain: the sound
of my father’s ink settling like a final breath
onto the translucent skin of rice paper. 

Dark dew grazes the pink, creased ear
of an apple blossom. Of blossoms
or their proneness to bruise, I know

next to nothing. All I know is that
a whole forest tipped with frost
trembles inside me as I apprentice myself 

to the strength in my father’s hand—
my small fist cradled in his
like a dirge caught in a swan’s throat 

& how the world unfurls in tendrils of fine
black silk between the flicks of our wrists, freed
from the tip of the horsehair brush: 

天涯  the sky’s cliff edge  & 海角  the sea’s
folded corner   as if each stroke obliterates
a coast between us, distills a year still 

to come. After the lesson, I lay the brush
gently against the gnarled forehead
of the inkstone & turn to face my father 

expecting, in innocence, the gift of a cool kiss
but he no longer recognizes me.
He doesn’t remember that, 

in a past life, this ink we rinse
off the brush so freely now
was the blood that bound us together.