From the Inside Quietly by Eloisa Amezcua

— Logan February

Though they may come From the Inside Quietly, the poems in Eloisa Amezcua’s full length debut are loud and rattling. Make no mistake, I do not imply chaos in any way. This work is full of self-assured poems that make themselves known. The range of subjects that are alive in the pages of the collection demonstrate Amezcua as a truly complex and thrilling poet; poems of love, language, distance, illness, family, Latinx heritage, childhood, violence and wonder.

One outstanding feature of this collection is the speaker’s depth of familiarity with the motions of womanhood. In ‘Boy’, she says There comes / a time when, just to feel, / a girl will put anything / between her legs. I find the poem ‘Candida’ to be incredibly nuanced in its carrying of trauma, bodily and psychological. The poet writes of a yeast infection, of delicate wrists (I say delicate but mean clean, mean unblemished.) She writes of a vulva pulsing with heat, of redness and swelling. The poem ends thus:

And again I blame my mother.
I didn’t come out of her vagina but still she’s an exit
wound and I’m the bullet, or the gun, or the bullet and the gun.

From the Inside Quietly is carried by the intergenerational tension between women of the family: mother, sister and the speaker herself. They are drawn apart by various forms of resentment and blame, but drawn together by love and loyalty. Early in the collection, the speaker teaches English to her mother over the phone, saying she wants to know how a word can be both / a thing and an action like war and mistake, but later on, a poem appears titled ‘My Mother’s Been Trying To Kill Me Since The Day I Was Born’. Here, some parallels can be drawn between Amezcua and Plath, as well as in a few other points of this volume (there is also a poem titled ‘After Sylvia Plath’!)

Cover features an abstract combination of images: one with a triangular grid; atop that, a distorted doorway; and then, a figure looking into an ever-expanding background.
Shelterbelt Press  |  2018  |  82 pp

The speaker in From the Inside Quietly is thoroughly unapologetic for her experiences and how they have shaped her. For this, I am in awe of Amezcua. Because of how diverse these experiences are, the poems are presented in quite a number of styles, a truly impressive feat. One of my favorites in the book is the poem ‘Faint’, a dictionary-entry styled piece in which the speaker describes life with an illness that causes her to faint. This is one of the poems that show off the poet’s ingenuity and innovation.

Without a question, my favorite sequence in this work is ‘On Not Screaming’. This poem vividly depicts the kind of love where one stays even though they are unfulfilled. A lover demands the speaker make herself small for him (I imagine that’s what / a man says to the child / he’s going to take if he’s / in the business of taking / children. How haunting, that section!) We are led to a recollection of other times when the speaker was bullied into silence and compliance. Amezcua’s expertise is so profound that, though this is not quite an experience of my own, I feel I understand it deeply. She closes the sequence by writing:

This is how I was
taught to love:
to silence yourself
is to let the other in.

In love, however, our speaker eventually triumphs. In ‘Defenestration’, which has become one of my favorite love poems, she compares her lover to those of her past. It is a poem of contentment (and cats!) where she says I don’t know / the difference between what will happen / and why it happens. Still, we fall asleep / and there is no more falling, and the satisfaction is undeniable. The same goes for me in my readings of From the Inside Quietly. With equally expert execution in moments of aching and joy, it is a book that truly, truly satisfies.

Shelterbelt Press