The Past by Ha Jin
Looking for old letters to send to you, M.
I have supposed my past is part of myself.
As my shadow appears whenever I’m in the sun
the past cannot be thrown off and its weight
must be borne, or I will become another man.
But I saw someone wall his past into a garden
whose produce is always in fashion.
If you enter his property without permission
he will welcome you with a watchdog or a gun.
I saw someone set up his past as a harbor.
Wherever it sails, his boat is safe—
If a storm comes, he can always head for home.
His voyage is the adventure of a kite.
I saw someone drop his past like trash.
He buried it and shed it altogether.
He has shown me that without the past
one can also move ahead and get somewhere.
Like a shroud my past surrounds me
but I will cut it and stitch it,
to make good shoes with it,
shoes that fit my feet.
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