Chloe Yelena Miller’s Viable is a work that both holds tenderly and clutches fearfully. It first delves into the grief of miscarriage- the very first poem in the collection, titled “Mid-Thirties,” shows the persona aching for what could have been: “I, too, know what I would say to a shy child, // given the chance.” After this powerful moment of possibility, the book is divided into parts: “Carried,” “Carrying,” “Carry,” and “Apologies.” Before I delve into each section, I want to point out the significance of these titles; the verb tenses of the word “Carry” and then the deviation with “Apologies” frames the book in a powerful way, supplying the reader with a connected thread from one section to the next.
“Carried” details the sorrow of losing a child while they are still within the womb. In “Short Duet/ Dualities,” Miller writes “That/ particular quiet of a single heartbeat.” Miller turns something that is so natural for most of us- “a single heartbeat”- into something devastating. There are no longer two heartbeats- now there is just one, and the persona is left alone in her own body. The loss of this child never stops pulsing within the pages of Viable.
In “Carrying,” Miller details the experience of experiencing another pregnancy. In the poem “Prune,” Miller details how the doctor compares the baby to fruit, and then ends with the line “I’m afraid of what can happen/ to you without my knowing.” The persona is trying to balance hope and fear all the same time, and Miller expertly splashes that juxtaposition on the page.
In the third section, “Carry,” Miller explores the beginning stages of motherhood. The persona begins to see the baby’s resilience, his strength, especially in the poem “Startle.” There is a duality to this poem: the baby startles the persona as a person existing when none did before; and the baby is startled by a slamming door. Miller describes the child’s reaction: “That reflex to protect yourself/, to survive against storms,/ despite other humans.” The persona understands that her child can endure “storms” of life, despite being so young and vulnerable.
In the final section, “Apologies,” all of Miller’s poems are apologies to the persona’s lost child and her current child. Each poem has the word apology in it: “Late Apology,” “Erasure Apology,” etc. “Erasure Apology” ends with the lines: “I am sorry-/ I cannot find the best form for mourning// and apology.” The poem structure itself shows the incision of loss with many blank spaces between words.
The collection ends with a love poem detailing how the persona and her partner met. It is a celebration of love, despite the anxiety and hardship that comes with it.
Viable is a book that maneuvers grief, hope, fear, love, and resilience effectively and evocatively. Pick up your copy today- you will not regret it.
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