A Letter along the Way by Xiwen Mai

A Letter along the Way

by Xiwen Mai

Dearest, tell me where the cicadas have gone.
Didn’t summer only exist in the past?
For I see myself sitting at the window
years ago, in the wild songs of cicadas
about how they had waited life long
to find the summer unbearable, Nanjing’s summer
hot as a stove. In spite of all the singing,
the wind would never come until the autumn.
I would watch the leaves of the parasol trees,
for which the old Chinese city had been famous,
monotonously green as if in a silent sleep,
their thick branches inherently sky-pointing
yet desperately blocking each other’s way
and thus weaving a web of shade
the stove-natives saw as a blessing on the road.
For a long time I hadn’t been able
to tell the leaves from the wind. Don’t laugh,
how could the cooling power belong
to something invisible, I hadn’t known.

Xiwen Mai has a doctorate in English Language and Literature from the University of Michigan. Currently she is an Assistant Professor of English at New York Institute of Technology, Nanjing.