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In Mandarin my father’s sisters were ever

gugu, gugu; a cheerful cluck of a word barely dusted off

twice a year.

Ahyi is brighter, more crisp, no less loving;

ahyi for my mother’s only sister

whose careful clever hands made

knit blankets and cakes and coffee, planted her own

winding garden,

scaled a fortuitous mulberry tree out in the middle of

absolute nowhere

to bring down the best, blackest berries

for us.

My aunt, my mother’s only sister,

ever only ahyi, ahyi,

so she has no name.

Not then, and certainly

too late now.

She taught me how to make dumplings. I barely remember

but we went to the market, her and little me,

putt-putting along slow

and then back home.

Wrist-deep in ground pork filling. She

showed me how to knead out the dumpling dough,

spoon in the filling,

fold it over and close, neat ruffled folds for the edge.

I barely remember

but I curled up on the couch before we were done

with all the rest,

was half-asleep when she came in

to pull a blanket over me

and turn out the lights.

Years later my hands remember the rhythm and routine

better than my memories do:

my dumplings don’t fall apart.

She might’ve taught me more, had we stayed family -

but no, best not dwell

on the memory

of ahyi.

pp. 9-10. Excerpted from: "In the Footsteps of a Thousand Griefs" by Wei-Wei Lee by permission of Poetry NW Editions. First published by Poetry NW Editions, copyright 2020.

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