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From a thousand miles away
I’m mailing you a pair of cotton shoes
A letter
With no words
Containing more than forty years of things to say
Things only thought but never said
One sentence after another
Closely stitched into the soles
What I have to say I’ve kept hidden for so long
Some of it hidden by the well
Some of it hidden in the kitchen
Some of it hidden under my pillow
Some of it hidden in the flickering lamp at midnight
Some of it has been dried by the wind
Some of it has grown moldy
Some of it has lost its teeth
Some of it has grown moss
Now I gather it all together
And stitch it closely into the soles

The shoes may be too small
I measured them with my heart, with our childhood
With dreams from deep in the night
Whether they fit or not is another matter
Please, never throw them away
As if they were worn-our shoes
Forty years of thought
Forty years of loneliness
Are all stitched into the soles

Poet's Note: My good friend Zhang Tuowu and Miss Shen Lianzi were engaged to be married when very young, but because of the war they were separated, unable to communicate with each other for more than forty years. Recently a friend managed to deliver a pair of cotton shoes to Zhang. The shoes were made and sent by Miss Shen. Tuowu received them as if receiving a wordless letter full of unspoken thoughts from home. He wept, beside himself with grief. Today Tuowu and Miss Shen have both grown old, but their love is everlasting. The poem was written from the point of view of Miss Shen, and for this reason the language has been kept simple and clear.