Friday, April 6, 2018


Dear sister of my heart,
when we learned nu shu,
in the time of foot-binding,
we vowed to be laotong forever,
and so I write to tell you
that my smallest son has died,
and the heart has gone out
of my husband.

I am writing you in the time of
the Chrysanthemum Moon.
As the daylight shortens,
the chill of the evening
mirrors my heart,
with no small child
to tuck into bed.

Write back to me,
before the first snows
of winter.
Speak to me
all that is in your heart,
that I may be able
to go on living.

"We tell each other stories in order TO LIVE.” Joan Didion

Nu shu is the secret language women in the Hunan province of China developed, in feudal times, in order to communicate with each other - a written language no men could read.

*laotong - a relationship of sworn sisters,  providing lifelong support to women, whose lives were circumscribed, in those times, within their traditional roles. 

*The Chrysanthemum Moon is seen in the month of September.

For my prompt at Real Toads: to write in the voice of a woman in feudal China, who communicated in the secret language of Nu shu. Or to speak in the voice of any creature.


  1. This expresses just what I would think this old tradition was for, a support system for women in a time before it all devolved into blogs called "Wine Mommy" and such. Lovely, Sherry.

    Mine is about a creature.

  2. Such a heartfelt message. Some friendships transcend time and space.

  3. Such a vivid portrait of grief and solace. Very nice, Sherry!

  4. Oh, Sherry, this is wonderful!!! I am there in your words.

  5. It would be wonderful to share such a bond as these women did. I feel the sorrow of loss, but also the solace of having a looting.

  6. Oh Sherry this is absolutely gorgeous writing!💞

  7. This was sad.. I could hear her aching heart.

  8. Tugs at heart strings, Sherry. Very sad. Thank you for the prompt, it was most interesting. I knew that many had deformed feet from being bound so long. Similar to the women in Africa whose kneecaps or knees were shattered. I've seen a lot of Black women here and in foreign countries limping along in the streets. Too bad for them that it happened before they had opportunity to leave.
    I also wondered if the women were cared for if the man leaves or dies or is disabled?

  9. Beautiful and so heartbreaking. the only support these women had were from each other, although some did have loving husbands. The binding, breaking of the foot, rebinding...such a shattering experience in more ways than one. Made into slaves by this practice.

  10. A lovely message to a loved sister.

  11. I appreciate how you've distilled the essence of such sorrow, in such voice and form, it speaks of the "propriety" of language and "codes" - yet it cries from within the soul for the rawness of the emotions.

    Interesting prompt Sherry - so thank you - and I like how you've walked into another sister's shoes here, and given her voice.

  12. Again, you write about magic--the kind we should all have access to. It is rare enough to be an extraordinary story, and it's a supurb poem.

  13. From one sister to another, Sherry this is beyond beautiful. Thank you, for writing...


  14. It was bad enough to bear a miscarriage but to lose a baby would be devastating. How well you touching poem demonstrates this Sherry and how the bond of sisterhood shines through in this message.

  15. Ohhhh! Yes, at a time like that, one would of course turn to the only friend with the true, deep soul connection. The sadness is palpable; also the trust in that friend's ability to comfort, perhaps just by being and hearing.

  16. A very real example of this form. Well penned Sherry. Intriguing prompt.


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Thank you so much. I will be over to see you soon!