Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


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.

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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.

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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
sitting upright
saying oh.

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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.

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On first
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.

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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.

Credit


Copyright © 2021 by Kaveh Akbar. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 23, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem


“The truest thing I can say about this poem is that it horrifies me. To sit so completely in my own ugliness—it’s like thinking about the face of a Gorgon so hard you turn yourself into stone.”
Kaveh Akbar

Author


Kaveh Akbar

Kaveh Akbar is the author of Calling a Wolf a Wolf (Alice James Books, 2017).

Date Published: 2021-04-23

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/my-fathers-accent