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the first letter arrived,

in shivering January,

among the powder-white snow and glistening frost.

in tiny handwriting,

scribbled across the top,

read the words,

“dear friend...”


there are approximately 6,927 Miles,

between Washington and Beijing.

but the girl from the other side of the earth,

peered over my shoulder and read.

“hello! it is good to meet you.”

her voice was timidly optimistic.

“my name is jia.”

along with it,

came a sepia tinted photo of the great wall,

three figures stood in front.

one in a wheelchair, another with silver hair, and one with glistening dark eyes.

the snow outside,

seemed to melt.


a clean page laid on the table,

a pen gripped in my hand.

in loopy handwriting, I wrote

“dear jia...”

I sent her a picture of the snow.


the second letter came wrapped in a red envelope,

in chilly February.

“dear friend... happy new year!”

enclosed inside,

100 chinese yuan.

I see the girl from the other side of the earth smile at me.

I thank her in my reply,

both for the money and for the happiness.


the third letter felt of worry

in crisp March.

“dear mother is in the hospital.”

inside, there is a map.

the hospital is a maze of hallways,

and my reply a mess of reassurances.


the fourth letter came stained with tears,

in sunlit April,

as the cherry blossoms began to bloom.

“dear friend... she is gone and I am alone,”

I am at a loss for words,

so my reply is all blanks and stutters.


the fifth letter was a trembling mess,

in cloudless May.

“dear friend... I cannot carry on.”

the handwriting is shaky,

as if the writer’s hands were quivering around the pen.

when I am needed most, I fail.

my reply, nothing but small talk,

searching for something meaningful to say.


as June rolls around,

I found no letter.

so, I wrote one of my own

this time, it is not a reply.

it is an apology.

I spilled my feelings over the crisp paper.

they left coffee-like stains.

I had failed, I was not there.


in July,

the letter I received,

was written in my own handwriting.

‘return to sender. delivery attempted, addressee not known at place of address.’

as the tears fall,

I try sending it again.

two decades later,

I am still waiting on my reply.


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