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Our world decreed
That we should meet
As enemies;
Without a common tongue;
But, prompted by
An even greater power,
Our hearts conversed
And softly spoke of peace.
Dear God,
Who Brothers made of us,
Touch all men’s souls
So Mankind may be thus!

— Bill Norways

Bill Norways, a British prisoner in the Kranji camp in Singapore during World War II, wrote this poem for Kameo Yamanaka, his former Japanese prison guard, in the 1980s. After the war, Norways and Yamanaka began a friendship-via-correspondence, exchanging letters for more than 30 years.

[Research note: “Families of British Prisoner and Japanese guard united by poem 70 years on,” Guardian, 16 August 2015].

On Request for a Poem

Do not tell me women
are not the stuff of heroes,
I alone rode over the East Sea’s
winds for ten thousand leagues.
My poetic thoughts ever expand,
like a sail between ocean and heaven.
I dreamed of your three islands,
all gems, all dazzling with moonlight.
I grieve to think of the bronze camels,
guardians of China, lost in thorns.
Ashamed, I have done nothing
not one victory to my name.
I simply make my war horse sweat.
Grieving over my native land
hurts my heart. So tell me:
how can I spend these days here?
A guest enjoying your spring winds?

— Qiu Jin

Qiu Jin (Jianhu Nüxia) fought for women’s rights during the late Qing Dynasty, demanding an end to the subjugation of women, including the practices of arranged marriage and footbinding. Together with poet Xu Zihua, she founded a feminist newspaper called “China Women’s News” in 1906. On July 15, 1907, at the age of 32, she was beheaded for fomenting a revolution against the government.