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Conversations With a Foreign Accent

Tell me, stranger,
What do you see?
Who do you see,
When looking at me?
Hearing a strange tongue escaping my lips,
Noting my exotic cheek bone structure.
A peculiarity that piques your interest,
And a friendly interrogation begins:
Where from?
How long?
When and how?
Do you like it here?
I’m from where my home used to be
And everything I knew I had to leave behind.
A transplant, another piece thrown into
the Great Melting Pot of Cultures.
Born where life is as harsh as Siberian winters.
Names of places will mean nothing to you,
Yet I recite them by heart to your incredulous facial expression.
Do you even care?
Can you even fathom the will and determination
Of someone leaving their homeland
and taking his wife and two kids across the globe,
Starting everything from ZERO?!
Do you know what it feels like
to hear a language your ears are not used to,
Day in and day out, grating like nails on chalk board?
This ain’t no tourist visit where you get to go home
To your creature comforts after two weeks.
They say it’s easier to adapt if you’re young.
I wasn’t young enough
To not cry myself to sleep every night for months.
Wasn’t young enough
To not feel the bones in my tongue breaking
Trying to pronounce all the new words.
But why should you care about any of this, stranger?
Walking in someone else’s shoes is very uncomfortable.
You are just trying to “shoot the breeze,”
Be the umpteenth member of the Friendly Welcoming Committee to this country.
I always wondered of your reaction
If I said that, ‘No, I don’t like it here...”
At some point you run out of tears and regrets.
Year by year it gets easier to forget,
Until one day you step foot onto your native soil again and IT feels, sounds, looks and smells strange, unfamiliar.
The paradox, the irony.
You can’t step into the same river twice.
And so here we are,
Naturalized citizens
With U.S. passports and a right to vote to prove it.
I don’t mind, really,
Giving you all the answers.
But don’t ask unless you really care to hear them,
and I’ll return the favor.
Empty questions lead to hollow answers.
I’m not your curiosity.
There are millions of us here, displaced and adapted.
Each with his own heart wrenching story.
©Olga Gavrilovskiy 2020

This poem is inspired by all the hollow annoying questions, first generation immigrants get asked by native born Americans once as soon as they hear a strange accent. Those questions used to irritate the crap out of me and that irritation really shines in this piece. But also, now you know why they are so damn irritating.

#America #ForeignAccent #immigrants #immigration

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