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Carefully, between two leaves

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a white pine plank, a blossom of mud cut cleanly by a falling raindrop

the teacup with a chip in its base, just room enough to slot one fingernail into it

the glaze of ice over green water, the brittle frost that crackles underfoot as people come and go in Caiyi Town

one leaf still pale yellow, still caught in the corner of the door

the cold mist that swallows the morning sun, flameless and innocent smoke

the spot of oil that sank into the floorboard and would never come out, just beside the lamp, where I step to light it

the slight imprint of your knuckles left in a pillow, an old one in need of restuffing, the millet going soft and dry and beginning to settle

your hair caught on the bedframe, the spring-mounted crane which – when I was very young – I used to like to flick into flight, which I had thought was long since rusted to stillness

As the weather has been wet, I hope that the incense has arrived safely. Though the shopkeeper certainly took every care with it, I must admit to ruining the presentation by unpacking it and wrapping it again. I have preserved the waxed paper, and perhaps you will find my additional scraps of cotton useful.

It occurred to me that, on your visits here, you don’t often have the luxury to go into town for your own amusement. The peach pit and lotus seed beads are fine examples of a local specialty, and will serve as a reminder to both of us of the pleasant things we might allow ourselves, if we let go of gratuitous exertion: the airiest of boats and the little fish to watch drifting in its wake. They will not weigh heavily on you, and you might let your hand rest on them, now and again.

The bolt of silk I chose merely because I thought it might suit you. If it is out of fashion, put it away in a chest for your grandson to wear, I will be just as contented to see him in it.

or unravel it and let Jin-furen have it as a nest for her pet finch, give it to the kitchen maid to carry her shopping in, roll it out on the floor and walk across it until the prints of your heels make a pattern that is more to your taste

only sheathe yourself in it, once, beneath your unbound hair, over your bare shoulders, and dream of me

your hands braced on the bottom of the Cold Pool, bright enough to mix with the moonlight, smooth as the pebbles they overturn, the color soaked out of your sleeves, the ends of your hair etched on the surface of the water like shadows in cut glass

the pink stamps on your spine, beneath your ear, remind me

the sleeping silence which doubles, triples itself, which is my friend and will not tell

the clear moon above, the pale ground below, the grass which whispers but cannot be seen, the path I will always go down again