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Poem: "Diamond Finger" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Diamond Finger"
This poem came out of the May 15, 2018 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] zeeth_kyrah, [personal profile] sporky_rat, and Anonymous. It also fills the "tough" square in my 5-1-18 General card for the Pro Wrestling Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Soupshue. It belongs to the Officer Pink thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Warning: This poem is intense. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It features a family visit with emotionally complex reactions, Uncle Fang asking Turq about past abuse, talk about Shaolin Kung Fu, Turq writing out and illustrating as much as he can, multiple emotional breakdowns, lots of crying, and other challenges. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.


"Diamond Finger"


Turq goes to visit
his uncle's family
as well as visiting
his foster parents.

Uncle Fang is fierce, but
Aunt Xiaoqing is soothing.

Turq's cousin Jun is
away at law school.

Both of the twins,
Huiling and Huiqing,
are home in the evening,
one serious and one silly.

It is achingly familiar,
and sometimes Turq
can hardly talk past
the lump in his throat.

"It's so good to see you
again," everyone says, and
yes, it is, but it hurts too.

Aunt Xiaoqing makes
lamb hot pot for supper
and they all share it in
the golden dining room.

Afterwards they play go
on the coffee table
in the living room.

Then Uncle Fang leads
Turq into the library.

Half of the table is
filled with stacks of paper,
pens and colored pencils,
even an inkstone and a brush.

Turq shivers, realizing
what is to come: Uncle Fang
wants to hear what has
happened to him.

It won't be pretty.

Turq is tough,
and he knows that,
because he survived.

He has the scars to prove
that he was stronger than
those who tried to kill him.

Uncle Fang is tough, too;
he walked out of China
as a boy and escaped
from the regime that
would have killed him.

"I have spoken with
your friend Officer Pink
about your past, and now
I am speaking with you,"
says Uncle Fang. "I want
you to tell me and show me
as much as you can."

Turq licks his lips.
"I'll try," he whispers.

"If you need to stop,
or leave, then do so,"
Uncle Fang says. "One
does not climb a mountain
with only a single step."

There is no door to trap
Turq in the library, just
shelves making nooks
between the family room
and the elevator foyer.

"Okay," he says,
drumming his fingers.

"Do you remember
studying kung fu?"
Uncle Fang asks.

"Yes," says Turq, and
the memories flood in --
first the Four-Part Exercise
and then the Soft Bones.

Only after he had learned
those had Dao and Uncle Fang
allowed Turq to begin studying
the Plum Blossom Poles and
the Diamond Finger.

Then Turq stares down at
his hands. "I tried to keep
practicing on my own, when I
could, but it was hard," he says.
"Most of the time, I was too afraid
to use it, even when I needed it."

"So are most novices,"
Uncle Fang replies.
"What is the first rule?"

"We are not learning
Shaolin Kung Fu to hurt
people," Turq recites.
"We learn for justice."

"Well done," says Uncle Fang.
"While you were in foster care, people
had an obligation to take good care of you,
but they failed to do so." He pushes
a stack of papers toward Turq. "They
have struck you many cruel blows.
Now it is time to strike back."

Turq takes a moment
to master his breath before
he reaches for the stack.

There are blank pages
and lined ones as well.

He recognizes handouts
on child abuse, emotions
and states of mind.

A body map invites him
to color in his feelings, and
another asks him to show
the story of his injuries.

Turq remembers the worksheet
of questions and the "police report"
based on the Goldilocks story.
Uncle Fang had used those
to teach him about laws.

The "register of injury"
is more formal, though.

Turq recalls how hard it was
to balance on the plum blossoms
chalked on the pavement, and
how much it hurt to keep poking
his fingers into sandbags and boards.

He had kept going then.
He would keep going now.

Breathing into his center,
he takes up the inkstone and
the stick of ink, a familiar ritual
that helps to order his thoughts.

For a while, he paints his memories,
making notes on them in Chinese.

When he's ready, he picks up
the colored pencils and fills in
first the body map of emotions
and then the one of his injuries.

There aren't enough boxes
for all the ways he's been hurt.

There are barely enough colors.

When Turq realizes that
almost none of the white part
is still visible, he starts crying.

Uncle Fang wraps an arm
around him and just lets
Turq cry himself out.

"Do you need to stop?"
Uncle Fang asks then.

"No," Turq croaks.
"I can keep going."

He fills out the page
of questions several times,
and the kiddie police report.

They help him frame his thoughts
about the people who hit him and
locked him in his room and tried
to make him stop being Chinese.

He writes down as much as he can
remember, names and dates
and places, but it's fuzzy.

Everything is a little fuzzy
after what he's been through.

There are tearstains on
most of the pages, and
sometimes the pencil
tears through the paper.

Uncle Fang doesn't mind.

He just sits patiently,
a silent witness to the pain.

Turq is writing about the people
who sold him to the procurers
when he breaks down again.

Uncle Fang reaches out and
gently takes the pencil away.

"Enough," he says. "We will
fight them again another day."

Turq flops onto his shoulder
and just bawls. He's getting
Uncle Fang's good suit soggy,
but strong arms hold him close.

When Turq runs out of tears
the second time, his eyes are
swollen, his nose is running,
and he's desperately thirsty.

"Sorry," Turq mumbles.

"You have nothing to be
sorry about," Uncle Fang says.
"You are very brave. Now go
wash your face in the powder room,
and then come to the living room.
Your aunt will bring us tea."

Turq washes his face,
which helps a little, but
nothing is going to hide
how much he's been crying.

When he goes into the living room,
though, the air smells of green tea
and fresh-baked ginger cookies.

He hadn't even realized that
writing out all that horror had
taken long enough for his aunt
to bake a batch of those.

Now they lie on a plate,
stacked into a neat pyramid,
beside the waiting tea service.

The tea is hot and smooth with
a faint tang of medicinal herbs.

The cookies are tender and
sweet with a zing of ginger.

Aunt Xiaoqing waits until
Turq has finished a cup
of tea and three cookies
before she finally asks,
"So how did it go?"

Turq smirks. "I gave
them the Diamond Finger."

"Good boy," she says,
kissing the top of his head.

* * *

Notes:

Fang Liáng -- He has golden skin, almond-shaped brown eyes in a triangular face, and short black hair just beginning to show gray. A shark tattoo covers his back. He has a tiger brand on his left forearm and a dragon brand on the right. He is 38 years old. Fang's family moved from China to America when he was a little boy, as political refugees. He is the younger brother of Dao who is a paramedic, husband of Xiaoqing Liáng, brother-in-law of his brother's wife Mingxia, and father of Jun (boy, 18) and Huiling and Huiqing (twin girls, 13). Dao and Mingxia had a daughter, Baozhen, who died of congenital problems at the age of two; plus Baozhai (girl), and Chung (boy) currently living. They have also parented a number of foster children, including Turq, so Fang has a lot of more-or-less nieces and nephews. Currently they have a white girl, Gwenllian (whom they have adopted); and two black brothers, Zachariah and Zaire (waiting to see what happens). Fang speaks Chinese and English with equal fluency, using Chinese as the home language so that the children can learn it. Fang is a formidable lawyer and amused by the way English speakers respond to his name.
Fang enjoys both Chinese and American classical music, whether playing or listening to it. In Shaolin kung fu, he excels at hard qigong and Guard the Home style. He does not hesitate to engage in social or physical combat, but is squeamish over injuries. Because his family had to flee China due to politics, Fang keeps a a sharp eye on it from the local to the global level. Introducing him to Turq will get him interested in cape politics. Won't this be fun?
Qualities: Master (+6) Formidable, Master (+6) Lawyer, Master (+6) Protective, Expert (+4) Intimidation, Expert (+4) Family Man, Good (+2) Chinese Games, Good (+2) Classical Music, Good (+2) Logical-Mathematical Intelligence, Good (+2) Politics, Good (+2) Shaolin Kung Fu
Poor (-2) Squeamish of Actual Blood

Xiaoqing Liáng -- She has golden-fair skin, almond-shaped brown eyes, and straight black hair with random platinum streaks that falls just above her shoulders. She is first-generation Chinese-American and speaks both Chinese and English. She is currently 36 years old. Xiaoqing is the wife of Fang, sister-in-law of Dao and Mingxia, mother of Jun (boy, 18) and Huiling and Huiqing (twin girls, 13). Dao and Mingxia had a daughter, Baozhen, who died of congenital problems at the age of two; plus Baozhai (girl), and Chung (boy) currently living. They have also parented a number of foster children, including Turq, so Xiaoqing has a lot of more-or-less nieces and nephews. Currently they have a white girl, Gwenllian (whom they have adopted); and two black brothers, Zachariah and Zaire (waiting to see what happens). Xiaoqing manages a cultural center in River City. Her grace and compassion make her popular with staff and guests alike.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Compassion, Expert (+4) Cultural Center Hostess, Good (+2) Emotional Intelligence, Good (+2) Graceful, Good (+2) Mother
Poor (-2) Low Pain Threshold

Jun Liáng -- He has golden-fair skin, almond-shaped brown eyes, and short black hair. He is Chinese-American, fluent in both Chinese and English, but he feels awkward about it. He is the son of Fang and Xiaoqing, nephew of Dao and Mingxia, older brother of Huiling and Huiqing. He has a bunch of cousins and foster cousins too. Smart and loyal, Jun has his father's intelligence. He studies law in college and does quite well at it. He tends to live in his head a little too much, though.
Qualities: Master (+6) Smart, Expert (+4) Family Loyalty, Good (+2) Law Student
Poor (-2) Chinese-American

Huiling Liáng -- She has golden-fair skin, almond-shaped brown eyes, and long straight brown hair. In the picture, she appears on the left. She is 13 years old. Huiling is Chinese-American and fluent in both Chinese and English. She is the daughter of Fang and Xiaoqing, niece of Dao and Mingxia, younger sister of Jun, and older twin sister of Huiqing. She has a bunch of cousins and foster cousins too. Huiling and Huiqing customarily dress in outfits which match but are not identical. They are identical twins, and very attached to each other, but their personalities are opposite. They're a rare midpoint between twins who do everything the same vs. those who diverge as much as possible: they've deliberately anchored both points. Wise and serious, Huiling enjoys studying philosophy. She has her mother's grace. Sometime Huiling can be stuffy, though.
Qualities: Good (+2) Chinese-American, Good (+2) Graceful, Good (+2) Philosophy, Good (+2) Serious, Good (+2) Wisdom
Poor (-2) Stuffy

Huiqing Liáng -- She has golden-fair skin, almond-shaped brown eyes, and long straight brown hair. In the picture, she appears on the right. She is 13 years old. Huiqing is Chinese-American and fluent in both Chinese and English. She is the daughter of Fang and Xiaoqing, niece of Dao and Mingxia, younger sister of Jun, and younger twin sister of Huiling. She has a bunch of cousins and foster cousins too. Huiling and Huiqing customarily dress in outfits which match but are not identical. They are identical twins, and very attached to each other, but their personalities are opposite. They're a rare midpoint between twins who do everything the same vs. those who diverge as much as possible: they've deliberately anchored both points. Huiqing is playful and enjoys art. She has her mother's grace and affinity for people. Sometime Huiqing can be flighty, though.
Qualities: Good (+2) Art, Good (+2) Chinese-American, Good (+2) Emotional Intelligence, Good (+2) Graceful, Good (+2) Playful
Poor (-2) Flighty

* * *

Fang and his family share a penthouse in River City. The dining room has a long table. The kitchen is open. The living room has couches and chairs. The library is basically a niche made of bookcases. The powder room has a Buddhist statue. The master bedroom has a sauna in the bathroom. This is Fang's study. Jun has his own bedroom, while the twins prefer to share one. That leaves a guest bedroom.

Lamb Hot Pot is a classic comfort food, shared with family and close friends. Learn more about hot pot.

Go is a Chinese strategy game, simple in concept but intricate in execution. Read how to play it.

Chinese ink comes in solid cakes for use with an inkstone and brush. These are often sold in a set. You can find instructions written in English, or watch this video in Chinese.

This set of colored pencils has black, brown, green, purple, dark blue, light blue, red, orange, yellow, and pink.

"We are not learning Shaolin Kung Fu to hurt people. We learn for justice."
-- Shi Yantuo, Kung Fu Tai Chi Magazine May+June 2014

Authentic Shaolin Heritage: Training Methods of 72 Arts of Shaolin by Jin Jing Zhong (Tanjin, 1934).

The "Four-Part Exercise" (SI DUAN GONG) balances soft and hard kung fu. It is one of the first techniques presented to students and doesn't take long to show results. It includes Part 1. Supporting the Sky, Raising the Earth, Adjustment of "Three Heaters" (TUO TIAN TI DI LI SAN JIAO), Part 2. Five Damages, Seven Harms, Looking Back (WU LAO QI SHAN
WANG HOU QIAO), Part 3. Opening the Window to Admire the Moon, Drive away Fire from the Heart (TUI CHUAN WANG YUE QU XIN HUO), and Part 4. Catching Emptiness, Striking at Emptiness, the Strength will not Give out (ZHAO KONG DA KONG LI BU LAO).

"Soft Bones" (ROU GU GONG) takes about six months to learn and is an essential foundation of soft kung fu. It involves twisting and kicking to become flexible.

"Poles of Plum Bloom" (MEI HUA ZHUANG) belongs to soft kung fu. This balancing exercise can be quite safe or downright dangerous depending on your choice of equipment. Chalking the flowers on pavement is as safe as any sidewalk game, and a great balancing exercise for anyone. Make sure you can perform the pattern perfectly before advancing to bowls, then to low posts, and later to high ones. Ninjas do this with loose poles, but they have a nonstandard risk assessment. It takes about three years to achieve some mastery of this exercise, but a diligent student can make rapid progress with the chalk and bowl versions before getting into the hard work on the poles.

"Diamond Finger" (YI ZHI JINGANG FA) is a hard kung fu exercise. It trains the forefinger(s) to become tough so they can strike devastating blows. This involves a great deal of poking objects (and a high pain tolerance) but shows formidable results in about three years. Starting with something semi-firm like a sand bag is safer than starting with something rigid like a wall.

Uncle Fang gives Turq pages that illustrate child abuse, feelings, and state of mind to help Turq identify what happened to him.

Where Do I Feel is a worksheet with a blank body outline to draw where emotions are felt in the body.

Show Us Your Story is another body outline worksheet, this time showing different types of past experience. See a blank worksheet and a filled example. Turq uses all the colored pencils in the set for his:

Self Harm -- red
Burn Scars -- purple
Animal Incidents -- pink
Childhood Memories -- green
Surgery -- dark blue
Sexual Abuse -- yellow
Physical Abuse -- orange
Mad Science Torture -- light blue
Striationary Marks -- black
Temporary Teleport Damage -- brown

Uncle Fang uses the Question Words and Goldilocks Police Report worksheets to teach children about legal issues. Many places have a Register of Injury form for incidents.

Meanwhile, Uncle Fang is filling out something similar to this Child Abuse and Neglect Report.

Triple Leaf Decaf Green Tea with Ginseng & Chinese Herbs is basically a big cup of adaptogens. It includes green teaplus Asian and American Panax ginsengs, Eleuthero (Siberian ginseng), jiaogulan (called "Southern ginseng"), astragalus, chrysanthemum, dandelion leaf, white mulberry leaf, peppermint, and licorice root. Tasty, too -- this is my morning tea.

Enjoy a recipe for Triple Ginger Cookies.

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