top of page

The Crossing of Our Accents

Elina Katrin

A sledge hammer driving railroad

spikes into tracks. That’s how my father

bends Russian.


Thirty-two years in the country I call my home

is not enough time for his Syrian tongue to slither

around the Cyrillic alphabet.


Among its rolling sounds and letters

with too many squiggles and tails, my father

still feels a foreigner. A hyena


bathing in the Neva River. A king

with no crown or throne.




How do we rate the perfection of language?


I’ve been told my English is perfect

countless times. The accent is flawless—


not fully gone but just enough of it left to keep

people wondering about my origin.


Five rubles tossed into a wishing well

filled with cents—


in America, people welcome me

as long as my voice entertains.




I feel Russian dangling from my tonsils,

but when I channel my firstborn tongue,


my mother cries out in what I hear as perfection,

the rumbling language of those left behind.


You sound like a foreigner

who knows Russian really really well.


Посмотри, что со мной сделала Америка.

Then look at what Russia did to my father.


From years of casting the steel

of nonnative vocabulary, we molded

our own versions of accents.


With conjugations that choke my father’s neck

and lax vowels skewing my jaw, listen to our mouths

join the choir of second-hand syllables.


Hear them grow louder.

Get ready to misunderstand.

bottom of page