Part two of our Thankgiving gift from Millicent Borges Accardi — whose awards have included  fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the California Arts Council, the Barbara Deming Foundation (Money for Women), Jentel, and the Corporation of Yaddo. As we said last week, Accardi is high on the list of Poetry Friday Friends for whom we are grateful, and these three poems are yet another reason why.

Poem Starting with a Line from Norman Dubie

Whatever it is that watches,
Has kept you from loneliness,
Has kept you from pain,
Has urged you, like an old radio show,
Out into the ocean in a storm
To sight the boat crashed (you are sure)
Alongside the lighthouse where you
Have holed up awaiting the dragnet,
Or the shadow or the green hornet
To find you before your ex partner
Digs up the treasury bills you buried
On the side of the cliff your husband
Sent his car over the side of. And, yes,
You are afraid of the whistles, the clock,
The phone that rings inconveniently,
At times when you least want to be reached.
Whatever it is that has kept you
On this path, this trail of running away,
Then, running into yourself
Like a promise made as a child, whatever that is
I am paying attention, and I am listening.


Photograph of My Mother as a Young Mother

She was looking
Shyly into the camera
When this photo was taken,
Standing uncomfortably
In a light colored suit with
Large shoulders and belted
Pockets at the hips.
Her right arm was straight,
But she was making a small
Fist as if she were anxious.
She smiles weakly, as someone
Unused to being photographed.
I am not sure
If this is Easter or another holiday.
Maybe 2 or 3, I am beside her,
Sticking out like a strong bite
Of wood, sturdy pageboy haircut,
Tomboy, earnest eyes. My own suit
Of a darker color, a short
Jacket with four large white buttons
Across the front, like an honor badge.
In a fashion popular at the time,
My mother has on her lucky silver
Earrings, this I know from the
Hint of sparkle at the side of her
Hair. This picture was taken during
Her red-headed period, when she
Channeled movie stars with their flipped
Soft waves about the face, bangs to one side.
Clearly 20 years after the fad died
Out. My mother is turning slightly
So as to face the camera,
As if to jump in and say, “Stop, don’t
Take me in this outfit, just take the child,”
“Put the flowers in the background”
I have a lopsided bow in my hair, falling
Off, even with grandmother’s
Bobby pins. The wooden slats
Of the house next door are barely showing
Behind the purple hydrangea bushes,
Which are larger than the Buick. Just out of
Camera range, the car, the future, my father,
And everything else.


Living only with the Hands

In the room with a fire,
knotting as they go,
a mother’s open fingers curl inwards,
crossover through strands
of untamed hair.

Loved from love by love

Women and pieces of ribbon
twist into vows, routines, scuttled air.
Memory by memory, the braids
link everything permanent, to everything temporary.

Loved from love by love

Cupping the strands which travel
side by side, brushing the flax,
combing through snarls
the mother calms her child.

In another room
a man eases his lover’s flush
with a fingertip.

A man lays his vaulted head
on a woman’s breasts.

A man attaches his hips
to firmament.

A man coils the web of vocabulary
behind his back.

Neck above neck
palm over palm,
knees between knees,
he covers her mouth with his words.

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  • April Coloretti December 18, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    Millicent is one of the most prolific poets I know! I am so glad she has been showcased and look forward to reading, hearing, and seeing so much more from her.
    With Aloha,

  • jason November 28, 2010 at 12:21 am

    Wonderful! Especially love your
    “Living only with the Hands”

  • David Wally November 27, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    Wow, what a wonderful variety of themes and stories and styles between these three and the 13+ minutes of video. Really enjoyed each of the poems, both in the writing and in the recitation. Very well done and delightfully evocactive and thoughtprovoking.

  • Justin Hamm November 27, 2010 at 10:51 pm

    Love “Photograph of my Mother as a Young Mother.” Especially love the attention spent on what is in the picture and the way that what is just beyond the boundaries of the picture becomes important at the end. Because isn’t that the way we study old photos? First we study everything in the photo in detail, then we try to imagine the world just beyond what the camera captured.

    Nice metaphor for what a poem should do, too, conjuring up in vivid detail everything inside itself, but nudging toward the meaning just beyond its borders.

  • Carole Borges November 27, 2010 at 10:36 pm

    I love the gentle intimacy in these poems. I also like the way I felt so grounded when I read them, in a time and place full of meaning and suggestive of time eternal yet current. The motif of weaving seems pertinent to the way the lines were woven like strands that brought movement to the poems. Nice work. I really enjoyed hearing/reading these and being there.