My Grandfather's Voice | Teen Ink

My Grandfather's Voice MAG

May 31, 2019
By jl637 DIAMOND, Livingston, New Jersey
jl637 DIAMOND, Livingston, New Jersey
72 articles 0 photos 16 comments

My grandfather’s voice is sonorous

like the Yangtze River, a steady current

flowing through a country scarred by hardship.


He told me about hiding in the mud-slabbed banks

as Imperial soldiers burned his village to the ground,

the sky coughing magmatic ashes and gunpowder,

bruised blue mothers and unborn children welded

to the tips of bayonets.


Books were his only salvation.

As his family fled the war-plagued countryside,

Grandpa devoured poetry as though it would cure

the undying hunger clawing at his stomach

or the swollen bruises lining his ribcage.


“For a few minutes a day, I was able to pretend

as though the enemy fire and bloodied pleas

of my dead friends were merely a dream. I was transported

back to a different world, a simpler time when we skipped rocks

by the riverbank and clambered across bamboo tiles

for my mother’s famous chicken dumpling soup.”

He smiles against a blur of plastic tubes

hooked to his mouth like shackles.

His hands tremble like December wind

and his voice – once mellifluous as honeydew songs –

croaks with silence, paralyzed by the aftershocks

of two wars and a Revolution.


Yet this silence – this immobility – is a form of art too.

I hear my grandfather’s voice, silent but steady

like the Yangtze, teaching me the invincibility

of language, how to turn words into weapons

and make my voice the gunfire.

I was five when he showed me the beauty

of Kaishu calligraphy, ten when he etched Chinese poems

into my skull until I learned to love them too.


When I write today, I feel my grandfather’s hands on mine.

He smiles proudly, guiding me through every word,  

shaping me as I speak.

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