Hold It Down by Gina Myers
Coconut Books, 2013; 102 pp
Reviewed by Daniel Heffner
In Gina Myers’ Hold It Down, the act of counting matters. Death tolls, keys on a keychain, delivery charges and service fees, quarters, times and temperatures, seasons, and months. The days of the week matter, turning continually into each other, or, as Myers puts it, “Another day: only that.” Myers’ numbering is at its finest in “Twenty-Seven: An Inventory,” a quietly threatening poem in which the speaker takes stock of her life.
The repeated title “Hold It Down” seems an entreaty at first. We can hold down a job, and we can hold down the fort, but we can also hold down other people. There’s hidden violence contained in the phrase, and the book draws out the tension between routine and violence, and a routine built on hidden and not-so-hidden violence: “This new feeling we lack a name for, struggle / manifested in the streets & in parks & on bridges / across the nation.”
But the book is not a political manifesto; Myers writes enough of the personal to craft a book that is both a lens and an invitation to look through the lens, past “my greasy reflection / in the smudged bus window” at day after day rolling around. Through her lens, the grind becomes a search for the best days and an acceptance of the worst. The poems take readers through cycles numbered by paychecks and wars, and by the end of the book, “nothing has changed or everything has.”