My Father’s Accent
A boy, prettier than me, who loved me because
my vocabulary and because my orange pills, once asked me
to translate my father’s English.
This poem wants me to translate it too.
Idiot poem, idiot hands for writing it
an accent isn’t sound.
Only those to whom it seems alien
would flatten an accent to sound.
My poem grew up here, sitting in this American chair
staring out at this lifeless American snow.
Black grass dying up out of this snow,
through a rabbit’s
long tracks, like a ghost
But even that’s a lie.
Just black grass, blue snow.
I can’t write this
without trying to make it
beautiful. Submission, resistance, surrender.
inspecting Adam, the devil entered his lips,
Watch: the devil enters Adam’s lips
crawls through his throat through his guts
to finally emerge out his anus.
He’s all hollow! the devil giggles.
He knows his job will be easy, a human just one long desperation
to be filled.
My father’s white undershirt peeking out
through his collar. My father’s hand slicing skin, gristle,
from a chicken carcass I hold still against the cutting board.
Sometimes he bites his bottom lip to suppress
what must be
rage. It must be rage
because it makes no sound. My vast
terror at what I can’t hear,
at my ignorance, is untranslatable.
My father speaks in perfect English.
Copyright © 2021 by Kaveh Akbar. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 23, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.