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
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 charming. Curiosity Invited. Beguiling.
An accent is cilantro/garnish/ decorative/ lovely.
An accent is an exit door, a deceptive map, an escape plan.
An accent straddles two worlds.
An accent is the estrangement of family.
Mis-translating ahead. All the time.
Faking spontaneity, when family is obvious scheming & fault lines.
An accent is code-switching, confused dreaming,
Emboldened Scusa & Ti voglio bene & Per sempre.
Of a secret love language until your lover
Types these in Google Translate.
An accent is a stubborn escoria of places never quite home:
When Cuba no longer welcomed my interviews to political exiles,
When London rents went off the roof,
When I stopped being Elena Ferrante
for Americans who never spent more than three days in Naples ( you say is safe there?),
When Rome became too dump and provincial,
I handed a pile of fears at customs.
I kept an accent,
The only betrayal I still trust.
Smagliature di significato: A Palimpsest Poem
Una silhouette di donna of a certain age,
una figura incerta,
from behind, leaning over her son
in a sunny avenue.
Una calza smagliata.
And I think: how familiar,
How dishonest, perturbante,
a map can be
when worn down to the bone.
How precious, how delicate
is mother’s fabric on my skin
that opens up, loosens up
are smagliature di significato:
They either cluster or intermit,
her silk tearing up,
trailing stubbornly behind my story
always ahead of it.
I lean towards her mouth to listen
and I am in awe
with the many layers of meaning
She is not aware of.
Beneath her common sense
and uncommon sadness
my mother’s heart smaglia.
Marika Preziuso is Professor of World Literature at the Massachusetts College of Arts and Design, in Boston (MA), where she teaches 20th century and contemporary postcolonial literature by migrant and diasporic writers, speculative fiction of the uncanny and Afrofuturist literature. Marika is a trilingual writer, a RYT yoga instructor, and a meditation guide. She infuses the embodied, reflective qualities of these practices in her poetry, which investigates various states of liminality and mis-translation and the ways these complicate any poetic intersection of self, craft, and culture. Marika’s recent poetry experiments with strategies of linguistic resistance and cultural opacity to challenge nation-bound imaginaries of Americanness, Britishness, Italianness (among other "-nesses"), and their attendant exoticization of "foreign others". For more about Marika’s work and writing, visit www.marikapreziuso.com