By Elinor Benedict
2000 Winner of the may possibly Swenson Poetry Award. Foreword by way of Maxine Kumin. even though the poems during this assortment usually are not narrative, they do current a story, steadily unspooling the story of the poet's insurgent aunt, who left the relatives "to marry a Chinaman" within the 1930's. it truly is an previous tale, choked with poignancy, secret, relatives delight, and doubt. whilst 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 study. steadily, via wide-eyed, insightful poems, we see the poet rebuild along with her chinese language cousins a feeling of iteration, relations, and humanity--bridging over all that divides us.
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Additional info for All That Divides Us: Poems (Swenson Poetry Award)
Now three years later this thin letter from Beijing tells me how the same grim illness and death that took her mother, my second self, has ﬁnished her. I think of journeys, kin, distances, home. Foolishly I wonder what she took with her. If I could send her something, I’d say, Ellen, take this, my ﬂawed stone heart, and keep it green.  H AW T H O R N S At the Temple of Heaven old men with tightened faces sell sticks of small red haw-apples, pierced by the dozen and glazed over ﬁres. I buy them like beads with my newly-changed money, fumbling in cold, counting out coins and mixing white breath with incense of charcoal.
And in Mao’s own cell there is something else: a holster and cartridge belt, looking ready, hanging on a peg like a coat waiting for him to come back. Outside the institute Mao’s statue, not yet toppled, stands huge among cherry trees: a stone man–too big for his belt. The Memento On the institute wall we ﬁnd a small photo in black and white of those who studied  here, among them handsome Zhou Enlai, a shadow-man who often stood between Mao and the people. I ask my Chinese cousin: Why no giant statue, no ﬂorid portrait of Zhou?
On the parapets old men in Mongolian hats grin and offer chunks of jade hidden in rags. Blinded, I shake my head, ﬁght to the last tower, wondering why their ancestors wanted this wind, this wilderness; how thousands of hands could ﬁt these stones with freezing thumbs. 2 Later, afternoon sun tries to warm the Valley of Mings, where 13 emperors buried themselves under 13 hills. 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.
All That Divides Us: Poems (Swenson Poetry Award) by Elinor Benedict
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