"The River Merchant’s Wife: A Letter" is written from the perspective of the titular character. The poem succinctly describes the young woman's history with her husband. When they were children, she thought that he was a silly boy. When they became older and were finally wedded, the woman was shy and couldn't even make eye contact with her husband. However, there is a hint early in the poem of their growing closeness. For example, when the wife refers to her husband as "My Lord, you," it denotes a more intimate dynamic than the patriarchal social norms of Li Po's day. It was a custom for a wife to address her husband by a formal honorary title, such as lord, but in this poem, the wife follows up with "you."
Later on, the wife begins to warm up to her husband and grows fond of him. When she desires her dust to mingle with his "forever and forever and forever," the poem's tone shifts from an emotionless chronology of a relationship to a more intimate letter. The brilliance of the poem is that this shift in tone mirrors the shift in the wife's emotions. One of the most striking lines of the poem appear at the end:
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.
It illustrates the progression of human relationships. In the beginning she was distant towards him, and now she feels a longing when he is distant.