Toast (a poem published in Cordite Poetry Review)

Svetlana Sterlin
2 min readFeb 3, 2022

My poem ‘Toast’ has just been published in Cordite 104: KIN. The piece is about my evolving relationship with my Russian heritage while (mostly) growing up in Australia.

Russia, 2010 — feeding bread to ducks


Vegemite on toast is what the locals eat around here.

not sure we can call ourselves that, with our lack

of pantry. a few shelves of Home Brand basics:

my childhood. sometimes news in the morning.

toast is what my father started eating as dessert

as soon as he could afford a toaster. a luxury, he

called it. guess that’s why it was dessert. Мама

would never touch it. she used to visit the Russian

supermarket when it was still open. guess it’s not

needed anymore. i remember the store in Melbourne

where Папа used to buy me глазированный сырки. don’t Google

Translate that. doesn’t sound too appetising in English.

toast is what we became when Папа lost his job

some years later. by then all the Russian supermarkets had

been declared redundant, like him. guess we’re expected to

assimilate. forget our old comforts and eat Vegemite

on toast. last month Мама cried when her friend

sent us a box brimming with Russian sweets. i sat alone

in the corner nibbling on toast. Мама told me to speak,

to smile. the dry crust scraped my throat tongueless.

Read ‘Toast’ in Cordite here, along with the rest of KIN.



Svetlana Sterlin

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