11 Letter to an Old Friend

Write a letter to an old friend or a new one.

Start by passing out the copy of “The River-Merchant’s Wife” by Ezra Pound and have the group read along while you read out loud. Then follow that with two more poems by people in assisted living centers.

After reading the poems with the group give them some prompts to help them think about old friends, such as:

Who was your best friend, and which of your friends do you remember the most about.

What was the favorite thing you remember about them? What did you like to do together? Etc.

Then pass out the worksheet with these questions and others to help them along. If you get someone who just can’t remember anyone, as an alternate have them write a letter to a favorite pet, or to their mother or father, brother or sister.

As always, leave time at the end for everyone to share their work.

Who was your best friend and what do remember about them?


What did the two of you do together that you can remember?


Did you ever do anything together that scared you?


Did you ever tell them a lie? Or did they ever lie to you?


When is the last time you saw them?


If they came to visit today what would you like to tell them?


The River-Merchant’s Wife: A Letter

translated by Ezra Pound

While my hair was still cut straight across my forehead

I played about the front gate, pulling flowers.

You came by on bamboo stilts, playing horse,

You walked about my seat, playing with blue plums.

And we went on living in the village of Chokan:

Two small people, without dislike or suspicion.

At fourteen I married My Lord you.

I never laughed, being bashful.

Lowering my head, I looked at the wall.

Called to, a thousand times, I never looked back.

At fifteen I stopped scowling,

I desired my dust to be mingled with yours

Forever and forever and forever.

Why should I climb the look out?

At sixteen you departed,

You went into far Ku-to-yen, by the river of swirling eddies,

And you have been gone five months.

The monkeys make sorrowful noise overhead.

You dragged your feet when you went out.

By the gate now, the moss is grown, the different mosses,

Too deep to clear them away!

The leaves fall early this autumn, in wind.

The paired butterflies are already yellow with August

Over the grass in the West garden;

They hurt me. I grow older.

If you are coming down through the narrows of the river Kiang,

Please let me know beforehand,

And I will come out to meet you

As far as Cho-fu-Sa.

By Rihaku

Dear Tom,

A desire to write you has possessed me lately again.

You were eleven years old, and I “about 2 days old,” when they introduced us. You fell in love with me at once.

Remember all the years you came on Sunday nights to visit my mother, my older sister, and me.

You may not be alive, but I hope you are and have been the happy man you deserved to be.

Remember the trips to the theaters, which I loved, and Christmas Eve refreshments at my house after the show.

And the piano playing and the very poor singing by all three of us after laughter and talk!

They were happy, young times. You and I both enjoyed them. Perhaps we should have married.


Elsie Dikeman

A Letter to an Old Friend

We’ve known each other all our lives,

And now you have passed,

And I am still alive.

Susie, I loved you so much better

Than any friend I ever had.

When you mother died, she left seven little children

That you ahd to raise. Do you remember

How I used to cook and help to feed them?

Now all the old-timers are gone.

And I’m left here alone.

Oh how I wish you were here, so we could have

A long talk and go to church together again.

Love, Mary

Mary L. Jackson

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