Academic journal article The Hudson Review

Guo Quanfu: The Other Grandfather

Academic journal article The Hudson Review

Guo Quanfu: The Other Grandfather

Article excerpt

The English words I have to tell of them

seem somehow wrong: I cannot speak Chinese.

And yet ancestral presences gather near me.

Dazed, stilled, I listen for who they are:

A courtier of the last Qing Emperor's court

who killed himself (I do not know his name),

leaving his wife (whose name I do not know)

with eleven children. At the French Embassy

she did the laundry. I think of the tiny shoes,

silk embroidered, she had to wear for work

too big for my dolls and far too small for me,

utterly foreign, unimaginable.

Some of those children died in the wars and famines

of the hard years. Some were given away.

When the soil demanded workers, children vanished

into The People's Republic of China. She kept

one, her youngest, close beside her. At seven

he was old enough to work at jobs

she found for him at a church outside of Beijing,

where he could live in a Christian school for foreigners. …

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