Chinoisserie

By Lynn Emanuel b. 1949 Lynn Emanuel
My mother in her dress of red Viyella, teetering like a tiny idol   
on three-inch lacquered spikes, chignon dressed with little gold-
throated bells that chirped more sweetly than the cricket,
held her small, perfect hands to the torrent pouring from the slots.   
Money went like water through our fingers: was dammed   
by budgets, released, then abruptly gone at the China Starr,   
that grotto, festooned with red and vivid lanterns.   
Dark as the inside of a limousine, that saloon was where   
our lives, dulled by the copper barons, were cleansed,   
where we bade good-bye to the limp and stutter
of bad goods, to the wince of the creaky rocker, to the vast   
grandmother dying in its clutch, to the dirty, wrinkled ones   
and tens pieced together to cover the week. Hello, we said,   
to the beautiful dark starlit bar and the luxury therein:
the runcible spoons with their slippery cargo: the snarled silk   
of tinned bean sprout, the wrinkled flame of the dried lily.   
Hunched over our beakers of jasmine tea, we let the exotic   
rinse over us—impractical and non-negotiable.

Lynn Emanuel, “Chinoiserie” from The Dig. Copyright © 1984, 1992, 1995 by Lynn Emanuel. Reprinted with the permission of the author and the University of Illinois Press.

Source: The Dig (University of Illinois Press, 1992)

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Poet Lynn Emanuel b. 1949

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Family & Ancestors, Relationships, Social Commentaries, Money & Economics

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Lynn  Emanuel

Biography

Lynn Emanuel is the author of several volumes of poetry. She sees her Hotel Fiesta (1984), The Dig (1992), and Then, Suddenly— (1999) as a triptych exploring the convention and flexibility of the book, and the agency of readers and writers. As poet Eavan Boland notes, “Lynn Emanuel’s poems have a rare power: they connect to the world through estrangement.”

The Dig received the National Poetry Series Award. Emanuel’s work has . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Family & Ancestors, Relationships, Social Commentaries, Money & Economics

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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