(Poem) The Nüshu (Women's Script) Poets by Donna Snyder

Nushu Script, Source
Nushu Script, Source

The words are hidden in strands of silk or letters

A secret language for women’s voices only
a language broken and bound prettily like feet

a silken dress conceals the secret poet she is
she walks before portraits in a Taoist temple
also envy of male scholars celebrated empirically

a hidden poet sends a basket of flowers to a girl
in the scarf she wove words hidden in plain view
songs of summer mountains wistful for her friend
secret lessons for the girl as if she were a boy
as if a schoolboy slated for imperial examinations
a fisherman’s child wife she sends hidden lessons

she writes her dreams in their woman’s language
she weaves pictures of wild sea creatures in her gift
the friend’s delight rings in her blood as loud as waves
lowered eyes see shoes given by her lord and husband
but tonight she will dream of sea creatures and passion
and in the morning sea salt will outline her girlish lips

Nüshu fan
Nüshu fan

Written March 21, 2009 at Tumblewords Project after hearing about the secret language of Chinese girls and women used to teach each other poetry and other matters, and to maintain passionate friendships.  Vestiges of the language have persisted into the modern era, with only a few women still knowing the words.

Read Meet Mago Contributor, Donna Snyder.