All That Divides Us: Poems (Swenson Poetry Award) by Elinor Benedict

By Elinor Benedict

2000 Winner of the could Swenson Poetry Award. Foreword through Maxine Kumin. even though the poems during this assortment usually are not narrative, they do current a story, progressively unspooling the story of the poet's insurgent aunt, who left the relations "to marry a Chinaman" within the 1930's. it really is an previous tale, jam-packed with poignancy, secret, relations delight, and doubt. while the aunt returns to die, the poet, now grown, discovers in herself the necessity to reclaim the connections that her relatives had severed. She travels to China numerous times--to examine. steadily, via wide-eyed, insightful poems, we see the poet rebuild together with her chinese language cousins a feeling of iteration, kin, and humanity--bridging over all that divides us.

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Extra info for All That Divides Us: Poems (Swenson Poetry Award)

Example text

We rise and gather souvenirs, avoid the stare of leather faces as we walk a thousand steps down Tiger Hill, where spirits hover, pilgrims keep on climbing, and we return to trampled earth. [48] V I S I O N AT TA I - S H A N M O U N TA I N I’m doubtful, restless, on this journey upward with Buddhist pilgrims to Tai-Shan seeking whatever mountain covered with cloud can give. Here at the midway station, the summit’s foot, westerners gasp at miles of stairway carved into rock, a tower of Babel, a Jacob’s ladder, spotted with toiling figures.

Their workplace is cold as a cave. In back of the room near a stove that gives barely enough heat for fingers to move, one young man suddenly looks up. While the others keep on carving, his eyes lock onto mine. Insolent, hot. ” Bamboo Off a back street courtyard, a gray room flowers with bright brush paintings by elderly men and women who gather to meet us. They wear old Mao suits as if they have slept in them for years. They sit shyly while their leader demonstrates how to paint bamboo on silk. But we are tired.

Two camels, chiseled in stone, face each other on the Avenue of Beasts, smiling for their photographs. My halfChinese cousin stands beneath two smooth humps and squints in the sun, ready, but my camera jams in the cold. I must carry this picture in my eyelids, back to another continent, this house where I reel in gray visions. I see [23] my cousin beside the strange beast, his twin, wincing in the glare; and afterward, his face reflected in the train window as he returns to his old city, his skin pale, his lids closed.

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