Millicent Borges Accardi
MUSIC REMEMBERED FROM THE WOMB*
Their music was played
long before father's coarse
face abraded my shoulder,
before he pushed my flesh.
Oh yes, I remember.
His hoarse notes driving
against mother's thin
The asking, the pleading
quietly in the room
around his body.
later, Mother's round
love and words
spelled out above
as if I couldn't look
up to see the blue
sky, to understand
what I already knew.
Their twin grunts
at night, the hushes
during the day.
The closed doors
magic. And I take
myself back to age ten,
to a Saturday.
And I press myself
against him because
that's what I do.
And his kiss takes
up my entire face.
And his dry lips
meet mine, in darkness
older than death.
And his hands fumble
with my skirt, pulling
apart cotton like curtains.
And I see what he
tells me is true.
The unmade wonder
of closed eyes, and the awful, awful
* * *
HE TALKS OF GUNS
He talks of guns and of protecting his
family of having the right not to wait
five days fifteen hours of the criminals
who will get guns anyway from places
we know not of Dare never think about
He asks me if I've ever held
a weapon fired an arm felt the kick
of the bullet shooting out from beneath
my outstretched hands the target
a dream lost in the distance I shake
my head with a No answer
He talks of how to fire his gun
and of how to choose between injuring
and killing and he mentions the NRA
and the Orange County gun show
last weekend when he came home empty
handed He claims there is a weapon
of choice for the prey a man wants
a different gun for birds for snakes for deer
for rabbits What about people I ask and he says
yes those are different too I hear about
how he takes his gun with him
on trips in the car as if it were home
and he swears he hopes he will never use it
and yet it is still there itching in his glove
compartment We talk of the election
and of voting for what we believe in
and I admire him just then for understanding
what he kills he eats and for not invariably
grabbing a package of hamburger from the market
I watch his mouth a smile of soft chiffon
Eyes clear and dark and Hispanic I know
he has been to a place I will never reach
knowing plenty about what he wants
in a woman In the sights of his rifle
the eyes clear of a living being not of his own
kind He knows what he can do with his bare
hands and then I think of his wife and I swear
he has a mistress and then I think of a friend
of mine About how in art school he would hide
in the science building after class visiting
the rattlesnakes glaring terrified and then
rat ta ta tat tat ra ta ta tat He struck
the glass with his fingers setting the snakes
off like traps Running night after night
* * *
WHY NOT IRISH?
My mother said, her red hair
And green eyes, glistening like fire.
It's always "The Portuguese!"
Your questions about
Immigration, what island
The family came from.
How to cook kale or salted
Fish, or malasadas. It's the questions,
About times in our lives
That your father would rather
Not remember, sweeping the porch
For his Uncle Manny, running away
From his great aunt Mary, crippled
With polio, who chased him under
The bed to deliver beatings.
The leather shoes three sizes
Too small that made your dad's toes
Curl up yellow. Why is it always
The Azores, the mystery of a dead
Language everyone wishes
To forget. No, he doesn't know
That song about his mother.
Why all this bothering of us, with
A Spanish surname. Your father
Is European. Not Hispanic.
Why is it that you cannot
Understand we do not want
This past. It's only a dialect.
No one reads it. English is what
You need. That's why your father
Goes to night school.
I don't understand your fascination
With Catholic school uniforms,
Your estranged cousins
In Dartmouth you never see them.
We moved away from the humidity,
And the church and scrimshaw
And the New Bedford streets filled
To build a better life for you,
In the land of Disneyland not cranberries
Or lobster or whaling.
How about the Irish or the grandfather
Mixed into your blood. William,
We think he was born in Dublin.
Maybe we could talk
About your Grandmother
Who lived in French Canada.
Her stepfather was a plumber.
Let me tell you a story about the bobbins
At the thread factory.