Accents: A Manifesto

I booked a blow job at two - I declare

to the large man at a London Supercut.

A blow ….what? shouts he over blasting dryers

Sounding hopeful.

21, holding a tiny dictionary in my left hand.

Freshly off my boat.

How are you doing honey? asks the lady

At the college town check-out, somewhere south.

and all I do is unravel my immigrant drama,

a line of impatient patrons growing out my back.

Hoping - but suspecting - that she did not mean

how I was really doing.

32, on a student visa without credit cards.

Freshly off my boat.

An accent is an accent is an accent.

An accent is welcome/exotic/ shame-filled/ opting silence.

An accent is ours. Charming. Curiosity Invited. Beguiling.

An accent is cilantro, garnish, decorative, lovely.

It is a world of difference. An accent is an exit door, an escape plan.

An accent straddles two worlds at least.

An accent is the estrangement of family.

Thinking ahead. All the time.

Faking spontaneity, when family is obvious scheming.

An accent is code-switching, confused dreaming,

sorrys and I love yous

Floating over what I really mean is

An accent is a stubborn residue of places never quite home:

When Cuba did not welcome my research

on political exiles,

When London rents became inaccessible,

When I was no Elena Ferrante to portray

my Naples for Americans who never spent more than three days there,

When parents fought over stuff inconsequential to me,

When Rome became too dump and provincial,

My fears learned English

My compass stayed behind

at customs.


I kept an accent.

The only betrayal I still trust.


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