Aries (a poem — published in Meanjin Quarterly Autumn 2022 edition)
A poem from my WIP poetry collection (titled When the Stars Explode), which is about coming of age as an immigrant, among other things.
the ram. April 20. just google it.
Мама used to say i was a Taurus
the way i tore off hunks of black bread.
i used to believe her but we didn’t live here then.
i used to tell Папа i hated black bread.
never a word about being teased. never a word
in Russian, not even my name. drop the lana
call me Svet.
even after his latest redundancy, Папа
adds chia seeds to our grocery list, then
he laments. what we have lost is
superannuation and the parts of our mother
countries we stopped grieving years ago.
still, it’s not enough. for him
who taught me ambition and now
teaches me how to do tax returns. still
Папа broods over traffic workers
who used to be colleagues. now they earn more
rotating stop-slow signs while Папа curves
his back over pool deck coaching their kids.
bet they don’t have a real education, he says.
bet their families never starve, i think.
but we’ve never starved even though
my teachers made fun of the way i ate
and classmates made fun of my black bread
sandwiches and called me Lana. still
i don’t know my star sign
but we are alive. and the stars still shine
and what if Мама had been right?
like the Russian snow i never touched
my throat thaws under day sky’s glow, how it used to
in Changi: just a stopover to a real summer.