Pearly grains shine in my grandmother’s young hands and in the dark bowl she holds. As she swirls the rice with water, the grains sing against lacquer. The curl of starch rises to the surface, a silken veil. As she rinses the rice, my grandmother sings of floating to the moon. She reaches into the milky haze, pulling up the stars. Each day she bends in the heat, combing a paddy field. The child strapped to her back gazes up into mountain fog. His eyes, the color of clouded water. At night as she sleeps, my grandmother’s hands continue their work, stroking the rippled surface of tatami mats, tending phantom stalks. Grandmother, I see you, the woman bending, shining in the fields. From the pictures you gaze into me, your slight body framing distant mountains. My little one doesn’t know your name. He hasn’t watched a woman wash rice, parting the white shroud. He eats dinners of roasted chicken and potatoes, lives in a house without the music of a lacquer bowl. Forgive me, Grandmother. I have gathered your kimonos, your pictures into a closet box. In my dreams, you waver over me, the moon returning to the paddy waters. With cool hands you moisten my lips, teaching me a mountain song—of the stalk bending, gleaming long after its grains have been scattered.
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