Review: Take Care by Eunice Andrada

This collection of blistering poetry begins with a poem titled Echolalia, a condition of unwillingly repeating sounds, and ends with Echolocation, a method of way-finding using sound. Sound as pathology; sound as possibility: Take Care explores these poles and the grey areas in between as Andrada investigates what sound (and, by extension, words) can do. That first poem begins with a scene of dynamite fishers on a coral reef, the fish rising stunned to the surface, their “airbladders honeycombed/by noise”. Later the poem alludes to an assault that will recur throughout the collection, a “full sentence” that “ruptures inside”, and the poet wishes her sound was more powerful, “I want the no to petrify movement”.

“Take care” may be something we say to people to wish them well, but in this collection Andrada reveals a hidden violence in the phrase. She investigates ‘taking’ in all its forms: patriarchy and misogyny, capitalism and globalisation, ecocide and colonisation, and all their intersections. “Rape is a structure”, Andrada writes in the searing Comfort Sequence:

not monstrous

not excess

rape is a logical conclusion

sovereignty ends

and ends

ends

In the excoriating On Invasion Day, she sees a perpetrator at a rally; he stands “proud/as a violent flag”, she writes, exposing and emphasising the common ground between taking country and taking someone’s body.

The collection finds one centre around the exploitation of Filipino women’s labour, the taking of care and comfort. In Pipeline Polyptych Andrada sketches a history of this labour, from nannies to pearl diving, to Palestine and the US health service. “Filipinos comprise a third of all COVID fatalities in the US healthcare industry,” she writes. Fittingly, then, the four parts of the poem appear as tombstones. In the previously mentioned Comfort Sequence, Andrada discusses the rape of Filipino women taken during the Japanese occupation as “comfort women”. The sequence begins with a story about the removal of a monument to these women, except it is impossible to read because there is a woman-shaped hole on the page. But on the flipside, a poem in the shape of a woman refills those blanks:

… they

trust you will not mourn what

you cannot recall. tell me who

racked their mind for this euphemism

but could not bear to look anyway.

Erasure, such a poem furiously demonstrates, only ever suits the powerful with something to hide or forget. Andrada seamlessly moves between the political structures to the personal devastation of these exploitations, imagining herself into the women enslaved in 1918 (The Yield), describing her own violations, forcing us to see them clearly without looking away, as men do over and over again:

… he sees me and cannot hold

my gaze. (On Invasion Day)

So Andrada documents the results of extractive, patriarchal power structures, but she also shows the resistance to them. In Uninhabitable Andrada writes back in the women’s rage that contextualises the story of Jonah:

Rage is the whale I must dwell in

when I move through cities my body

cannot inhabit.

This rage is perhaps most explicit in Vengeance Sequence, which gleefully imagines all the violent things she would do to exploiters, from anti-rape devices with kill switches to tiny living dolls made of hair. But there are also more subtle forms of resistance: laughter, stopping work, (re)inhabiting one’s body. In The Chismis on Warhol Andrada imagines Andy Warhol’s two Filipino maids talking about the artist hanging out with Imelda Marcos, wife of Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos (and whose son has just won the Presidency):

Did you hear the canned sopas

was a hit at the galleries?

How they ate that shit up.

The chismis is Tagalog for gossip and, to probably completely butcher the term, it is piping hot.

In each of Andrada’s poems there is something to surprise, a phrase to puzzle over, perhaps most striking in Flight Path, in which the poet takes two manta rays out for their walk, floating around her face like tiny kites. Or the digital glitchiness of Trick Mirror, in which a live broadcast of a naked woman interrupts a Zoom call. But while the other participants flee, the poet finds herself connecting with the woman through the wormhole of the web. It is this persistent strangeness that pulls the rug out from under you, revealing something dark and uncanny underneath.

Gay rating: not gay.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s