articulating with millicent borges accardi

accardiThis week’s poem comes from Millicent Borges Accardi’s latest collection Only More So (Salmon Poetry) which I recently reviewed for Queen Mob’s Tea House.

My reading process for book reviews (or most books in general, except for novels) is to read with an index card nearby on which I jot down page numbers and key words that I can come back to for either note-taking or review ideas. This practice came out of trying not to write in the margins of books, which is all I did during my twenties, or so it feels like. Sad to say, other than a lot of underlining and the rare sharp observation, the margins of my books were primarily filled with the word “Wow!” written in various sizes. With the index cards, I’m able to have a cursory map of my reading with which to reflect upon.

I share this bit about my review process because I had a pretty strong in-the-moment/on-the-index-card reaction to its ending. While the poem deals with survival, a recurring theme in Accardi’s powerful collection, the way this specific kind of survival is articulated had for me some strong connotations beyond the poem. My note in the margin read: how poems work. I remember feeling that the way the speaker’s directions on “shaking off” the PSP have a person “curled up” and hiding, waiting for the right moment to head back, mirrors the way a poem can wait inside a person until it (and the poet) are ready for it to be expressed. I’m not sure if this makes sense, or if I can articulate the feeling any better (hence this thought isn’t in the review), but it’s a feeling that will always be a part of my memory of this poem.

*

How to Shake off the Políciade Segurança Pública Circa 1970
Millicent Borges Accardi

Walk home
determined, neither
urgent nor pokey.
Make clear cut
turns and hold
your head up high.
Carry an ordinary
briefcase. Dress
in shades of brown,
as if you could fold
up and turn back
into dirt if you
needed to. Do not
stop or pause except
to honor street lights
and stop signs. Stay
in the shadows,
but do not hug them
or stay tight
to the overhangs.
Do no pause
to peer into windows,
or look as if you are
waiting for someone
like Salazar.
Disappear. Disappear.
Disappear, as best you can
into traffic
or the pulse of Lisboa.
Do not hesitate
when the men draw
closer, turn into the nearest
side street, that is dimly lighted.
Find a building
where people are entering
easily. Go up the stairs
as if you have business
there, or as if this is your
own home, which it isn’t.
Do not look back even
cautiously at the PSP,
glance down, step with surety
into the unfamiliar lobby.
Find the stairs. Sit
in the darkness under
until you have
become the earth. Hold
your breath
until the men have gone
by. Tell yourself you are safe
and everything
is fine. Remain curled up
longer than you have to,
longer than you imagine might
be necessary before
you regroup and head back.

*

Happy articulating!

José

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