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

By Elinor Benedict

2000 Winner of the may well Swenson Poetry Award. Foreword by way of Maxine Kumin. even if the poems during this assortment are usually not narrative, they do current a story, progressively unspooling the story of the poet's insurgent aunt, who left the family members "to marry a Chinaman" within the 1930's. it truly is an outdated tale, filled with poignancy, secret, relations satisfaction, and doubt. whilst the aunt returns to die, the poet, now grown, discovers in herself the necessity to reclaim the connections that her kin had severed. She travels to China numerous times--to research. steadily, via wide-eyed, insightful poems, we see the poet rebuild along with her chinese language cousins a feeling of new release, relations, and humanity--bridging over all that divides us.

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Sample text

Then an enormous moon appears. Next morning at the prison seminar we taste mooncakes fresh from the oven. The warden breaks them apart for us at the kitchen door after his lecture on all the lies our press tells about Chinese prison labor. Fuming, the torn cakes reveal their dark secret and we agree, they’re the best ones we’ve eaten. ” We wave goodbye with mooncakes on our breath, believing most of what we have heard in hope of a fortunate harvest. [45] P E A C E R OA D K I N D E R G A R T E N In this small city within a city children live from early morning until dusk, when parents come back to remind them who they are.

Here are the makings of war, slavery, and notions of beauty that crushed girls’ feet into pairs of dead lilies. See how exquisite the small shoes. Like you, I could rave about loveliness but instead I ask myself where goodness and justice fit in. You’d touch a finger to my mouth and chide, Don’t ask. Let civilization make beauty without judgment . . Take this scroll, for example, with cragged mountains, lone monk by a cave. Observe the wet pines, raven in mist, waterfalls lighting the monk’s smile.

When twisted meats of mysterious origin arrive steaming, our guide translates with difficulty. ” We munch, guessing squirrel. Other beasts we leave tangled in rice as we swallow fiery maotai, toasting South China wildness. Months later the flying fox leaps out on Sunday afternoon TV, flexing its black wings, grinning like a miniature hyena: the notorious giant fruit bat of Southeast Asia. As its leathery body flops before me, I redefine my ability to adjust to wild things. Partings We applaud over littered banquet plates and Qingdao beers, start loudly singing American camp songs mixed with Chinese ditties hardly anyone understands, but everyone keeps grinning and toasting Mr.

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