Aries (a poem — published in Meanjin Quarterly Autumn 2022 edition)

Svetlana Sterlin
2 min readMar 20, 2022

A poem from my WIP poetry collection (titled When the Stars Explode), which is about coming of age as an immigrant, among other things.

To read my poem with its intended formatting, subscribe to Meanjin or buy the Autumn 2022 edition here.



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.




Svetlana Sterlin

Svetlana Sterlin lives and writes in Brisbane, Australia, where she completed a BFA. Her work appears in several online and print publications.