By Elinor Benedict
2000 Winner of the could Swenson Poetry Award. Foreword by way of Maxine Kumin. even if the poems during this assortment should 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the story of the poet's insurgent aunt, who left the relatives "to marry a Chinaman" within the 1930's. it really is an outdated tale, packed with poignancy, secret, family members delight, and doubt. while 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 a number of times--to research. progressively, via wide-eyed, insightful poems, we see the poet rebuild together with her chinese language cousins a feeling of new release, relatives, and humanity--bridging over all that divides us.
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Extra resources for All That Divides Us: Poems (Swenson Poetry Award)
My daughter and I cannot sleep together in this bed so many worlds from home: our snow-hushed rooms, warm and separate, changed to this stiff intimacy under silk. Neither of us knows the other’s skin. Hers is smooth, blue as milk; mine crinkled, scalded cream. We try not to cough or sway the ancient mattress. But I want to tell her how this dark  hotel’s a buried city of women like us. In this room we meet and part from our mothers, children, lovers, breath. This bed swings like a bridge over all that divides us.
The laundry needs doing, rooms want cleaning, a dozen guests are coming for Peking duck. She balances ﬁve tiers of crystal goblets on her chin while she rotates like the world on its axis, knows he will want her later, using her most exotic positions, torso and legs presented like ﬁne loins of beef to be turned, twisted, pounded into succulent display. Young Tai-Ji Master at Qufu Is it the white silk of his loose shirt and pantaloons sliding against his still-cool brown body Or is it the tight skin of his muscled neck, small-knotted at the throat between tendons like cords balancing the chiseled head and face, eyes cave-black, watching a distant ﬁre that never burns out?
Your birthright is your vision of all that happened since, China in extremis through your eyes as a boy with feet straddling both worlds, a story you will write for yourself someday, when time tells, spirits rest. For me you are generous with your life. You will not give me away. Only I can do that, a loving thief giving ﬁngered goods back with a pinch of rue. Here in my patched coat, my pretender’s shoes, I stand.  THREE In the Company of Magpies T H E C H I N E S E A R T & C U LT U R E T O U R Valuables In Shanghai rich young Amanda buys dead insects in amber from a shop as dark as a vault.
All That Divides Us: Poems (Swenson Poetry Award) by Elinor Benedict