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Jennifer Richter presents a series of poems that explore the many facets of the term “threshold.” All over the collection, the narrator experiences several acts of threshing, or separating—from birth and the small yet profound distances that part a mother and child, to the separation caused by illness and its toll on relationships. At the same time, she is regularly gathering, piecing together the remnants of her life, collecting her children into her arms, and welcoming a future without pain. Pain is regularly present in these poems, as the narrator ceaselessly confronts her own threshold for enduring a ravaging illness. Her harrowing struggle through recovery is chronicled by a poem at the end of every section, tracing her powerful journey from deep suffering to a fragile yet steadfast sense of hope.
These gripping lyric and prose poems explore duality in its many forms: the private, contemplative world as opposed to a world of action; the mirror sides of health and sickness; the warmth of a June sun and the deep, long nights of winter; mother and child; collecting and letting go. From the comfort of a morning bed at home to the desperate streets of Hanoi, Threshold is a searing portrait of healing, the courage it takes to bridge the gulfs that divide, and the wonder of the ties that bind.
What Is My Body Without You?
My son’s pajamas unsnapped
on the floor: small husk
of his body relaxing on its back,
legs and sleeves still filled
with his rush. This a part of him
hasn’t outgrown my arms
and every so often lets me lift
him up our steep stairs,
carry him to bed and pull
his shade against the gray
thin winter sky like milk
my daughter wakes up wanting.
In the last days of lifting her
to my breast, I fill her less
than the air already gone
from my son’s flat shape.
Twice like that I have lain back,
the doctor opening me
along the same clean seam.
Each time I used to be watching:
with a couple of tugs the child
was out, naked and heading
toward other hands, every child
cut loose before I knew it.