Only More So by Millicent Borges Accardi
Monday, February 27, 2017
ONLY MORE SO by MILLICENT BORGES ACCARDI
JESSICA GONZALEZ Reviews
Only More So by Millicent Borges Accardi
(Salmon Poetry, Ireland, 2016)
Millicent Borges Accardi harmoniously strings together a collection of unabashedly vulnerable, declarative poems in 2016’s Only More So, and its release could not be more timely. Each poem feels like breathing and quiet observing; words slowly weave in and out in natural resolve. Ms. Borges’ speaker, like a doctor in the examination room, performs quiet palpation on the reader—her patient—feeling for nerve, for crying, for laughing. The voice in these poems reads at once girlish and maternal, and yet, also reveals itself capable of universality. Only More So expertly covers personal terrain (“The Well,” “Arrythmia,” “Buying Sleep,”) while also engaging vaster territories (“Portrait of a Girl, 1942”). These poems will ring out and continue to be relevant as long as humans are intricate, tangled, and of this world.
Only More So, then, is undoubtedly a collection of condensed, flowing portraits. Comprised often of walls of text as opposed to sets of shorter stanzas, the poems manage a stream-of-consciousness, slice-of-life style that erupts and flows like a ballad. “Arrythmia”, for example, tows the line between the consistent solemnity that surrounds her husband’s condition, and the dutiful attitude the speaker undertakes as his wife, throughout this period in the couple’s relationship. It is comforting and cathartic, and woefully honest. In the beginning. Ms. Borges alludes to the familiar, hopeful attitude loved ones of someone just diagnosed with a long-term illness may have during its first stages:
In the early days of the disease,
There is nothing else to call it,
We were giddy with guessing
Treatment, symptoms and hope.
We knew there was a pattern
And measures we could take.
The hope grows slowly into subtle desperation; a thinning line. You can almost hear the speaker’s breathing quickening:
...A younger body heals
quickly, and each new year there are new
Drugs. Every time we blink there is a lab study,
Or a control group. There is time, more
Than time if you had gotten this at 70 or 80.
The speaker’s dispassionate tone downplays her investment and her ultimately faltering hope. The poem never falls into an utter despair, though, and the most power is held within what is not said. The final lines of the poem suggest that there is still so much they have not done, and still can do:
There were countries to explore, battles
To be fought, languages to adopt and twist
And make into our own.
Perhaps the disease is the language the couple, or at least the speaker, tries “to adopt and twist and make into [their/her] own”. The complicated feelings of dealing with the disease of a loved one, especially that of one’s partner, are examined exceptionally well in just a few lines. This last line is my favorite, in fact, in the whole collection.
Other notable poems include “The Well,” “Amazing Grace,” and “The Last Borges.” All three poems recount personal intimacy and individual weakness through piercing tactile imagery, lyrical movement, and a resounding, glittering, and thoughtful energy. “The Well,” in particular, offers a glimpse of a certain speaker, passive in her ultimate submissive position to her surroundings:
She focuses on a dark place,
A solid rock. A narrow dusk
Somewhere with just enough
Room for her below
The ground. Harder than granite.
She searches for a view
Above the roar of bulbs
Flashing, of spots,
Of the color green.
This is her contest
With sleep, with pins
And needles, with the
Boredom of waiting
For someone to help.
The speaker is constantly “searching” without moving, further grounding an image of passive resistance. Understanding she is in need of help, she waits in “boredom” instead of taking it upon herself to search and find. Instead of stubbornness, though, this move on the speaker’s part reads more as an admirable weakness. “Boredom” implies a certain self-awareness; she understands, perhaps, what she can do, but chooses to act contrarily. And in choice, lies strength. At the end of “The Well,” the speaker listens to a voice that tells her to “Climb up. Slide down,” and she listens. The poem reveals the power of choice and its way of conquering passiveness that is ultimately hindering.
Only More So is a collection that I would like to keep close to me as 2017 continues to unfold in all its chaos and dizziness. Ms. Borges’ poems remind me that it is okay to feel vulnerable, swept off my feet, and in limbo—that we still have choice, bravery, and might at arm’s reach… that everything can be observed, breathed in, and battled as needed.
Jessica A. Gonzalez is an editorial assistant and freelance writer and translator based in New Jersey and New York. She recently graduated from Rutgers University with a BA in English and also writes poetry.
Posted by EILEEN at 8:03 AM