Saturday, September 3, 2016

Genocidal Rape in Millicent Borges Accardi's ONLY MORE SO . . . .

Christal Cooper

Genocidal Rape in
Millicent Borges Accardi’s
Only More So

       This past April 2016 Millicent Borges Accardi’s new poetry collection Only More So was published by Salmon Poetry.

       Only More So is compact 75 pages of 46 poems focusing on genocide, family, patriotism, and spirituality. 
The most compelling poems are the poems that expose genocidal rape - each poem so appalling it gives you that needed punch in the gut.  These poems sear the brain, fiercely hot, that it is impossible to ignore, compelling our senses, and is impossible to forget.  These poems are living testimony demanding to be read, offering comfort to those who need comfort, conviction for those who need conviction, and change for all of us – in order to make it a violent free world.

“Ciscenje Prostora” (Ethnic Cleansing)
       The poem “Ciscenje Prostora” centers on the evil of genocidal rape, which has always been used as a method of war since humanity first engaged in wars.

This woman does not know he
carries the devil’s four poster bed
in his palm, clutching it like promised
money: Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, home.

All she knows is the sound of his boots, and the rebel tanks that shake the houses she and her neighbors live in.  Unfortunately, her knowledge is expanded when he finds her.

She knows not to stare back
when he finds her, hiding behind a clay
plot.  When his soldier’s eyes become her
life, more understandable than her or me or any
pronoun she whispers out between no and help,
she shuts her eyes, imagining cold weather.

       The man proceeds to rape this woman, first on the family’s rug, and then against the wall of the family’s house.  We then learn this young woman is the third generation of women in her family to be victims of  genocidal rape.  
       In the seventh stanza this woman now represents all the women who have endured this atrocity:

Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia; the countries undulate
together while he dances the dance of the basilisk
thighs marching, marching.

       The next to the last stanza can refer to two things – either the man is interpreting the sounds of birds to be the pleas and cries from the woman to stop; or it could be his comrades cheering him on.

Even little sounds, like birds overhead
encourage him to go on, to spit, to breathe
three generations of her surrender into his lungs.

“Only More So”
       The poem title of the book “Only More So” centers on a gang rape of a wife by a gang of soldiers in front of her husband, who, though rubbing a wooden riffle, is powerless to help her.  The soldiers demand she open the door so they can share the warmth of her yellow fire; they inquire about the valuables she has on her person and in her home; and demand she go fetch them water.

It was like this:  the woman’s hips swayed
like harmonicas when the men watched her fetch
water and run it into the basin, cracking
ice with her fingernails. 

Accardi then describes how the woman’s clothing is being removed from her with ease and seduction.  There is no question that this woman is being raped.  The clothes symbolize the men’s depravity and how easily it is for them to exhibit evil.  
                          counted the woman’s
buttons as they easily slipped through the stitching
of her clothes.

                     Serb Soldiers.  Public Domain 

       As each man takes his turn with the woman, her husband still in the corner, the woman faces a reality of hopelessness and helplessness.

                                                    this last
woman, clasped a bowl to her chest knowing, knowing,
what the snow outside pretended, knowing
that nothing important ever belonged to her.

       Her thinking changes from that of powerlessness to basic survival:

That now she must survive by owning air,
holding back the red, the full, the bare,
the proud canvases of flat language paper
that once told her everything she needed to know.

It was like this, only more so.

How To Shake off the Policiade Seguranca Publica Circa 1970”
       “How To Shake off the Policiade Seguranca Publica Circa 1970” tells of the state of unrest in Accardi’s home country of Portugal during the Portuguese Colonial War between Portugal’s military and the nationalist movement in Portugal’s African colonies. The war lasted between 1961 and 1974.

                     Portugal in 1970

This poem is applicable to America today particularly on college campuses with the rapes that have occurred and the lack of justice given to these women. 

Founder of EROC Annie E Clark 

The speaker of the poem is advising what a young woman of 1970 Portugal should do if she finds herself walking alone at night, with the Portugal Police in sight. 

            Attributed to Maria Helena Vieirada Silva 

Her advice is also applicable to that lone college girl walking alone at night.

        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.

“In a Certain Village”
       Accardi uses the story of “Little Red Riding Hood,” the rape culture’s self-blame, and survival guilt to describe the injustice of rape in her poem “In a Certain Village.”

In a Certain Village

The clothing all fit perfectly,
Especially a red cape made by
A specific woman for her
Less than specific daughter.

There was an unruly journey
And patted cake with a minute
pot of yellow, whipped butter
peaceful as a softened heart.

There was a wild beast
of a tallish bad-mannered
man who said, “I’ll go this way,
my dear and you go that.”

There was a long illness,
Sort of like the flu or scarlet
Fever.  There was a plain wooden
armoire and a grandmother.

This will end badly, I think
we all know, don’t we?
“Watch your back.”
the girl’s mother said.

Before the journey she
Cautioned, “the world is not
Always kind.”  This story is also
about a bed and a zippered knife

With a blood gauge.  I warn you,
no one here is left to discuss
the legal terms, or the details of
what might have happened.

Later the village people will puzzle
About the incident, and they will
ask after the grandmother,
“Did she live far?  And “Was it dark
when her journey began?”

               Little Red Riding Hood by Carl Larsson in 1881

“Start Here”
       In “Start Here” the great question is not if a violation/rape of a woman has occurred, but when it begins?  Does it begin by the perpetrator gaining the trust of his victim?

It was like trusting
a stranger and letting
him into your house,
when you had a nagging
feeling he would turn
up later with a key.

                             attributed to Matt Manley
                            copyright granted by Matt Manley

       Does the victim bare any responsibility for the perpetrator’s actions simply by ignoring her feelings of fear and trusting him anyway?

Even as you answered
The door, saying
in an unfrightened
way, that you wanted
to be, were wanting
to be charitable,

There were thoughts
of a gang of men.
of him, just like this 

                        "Date Rape And Self Awareness"
                        attributed to Lynn St. Clare Foster
                        copyright granted by Lynn St. Clare Foster


       Does the woman need to be a victim of rape in order to experience the damages of rape?  Is it possible that generations of women suffering from rape can pass the traumas of rape to their offspring? 

You saw your
asking for her
purse, then more.
Lots more.


       In closing it seems totally appropriate to end this analysis of Millicent Borges Accardi’s new poetry collection Only More So with a quote by famous feminist Carol Hanisch:

       “A woman should be able to walk stark naked down Main Street and not be raped. No man has a right to invade her territory uninvited." 

No comments:

Post a Comment