- OLGA ZILBERBOURG
Olga Zilberbourg is the author of LIKE WATER & OTHER STORIES (WTAW Press) and three Russian-language collections of stories. Her fiction and essays have appeared in Lit Hub, Electric Literature, Scoundrel Time, World Literature Today, Tin House Online, Narrative Magazine, and elsewhere. She serves as a co-facilitator of the San…
My son is learning his vowel sounds
in kindergarten, and I’m not helping.
He reads “y” as “oo,” as in “cock a doodle doo” —
though I hadn’t taught him the Russian way,
not consciously, anyway.
His “a” comes out as “ah” in “can’t,” the British way;
“e” to him is “i” in “in” and “is” and “i” is a mystery.
I have no doubt that he’ll get these eventually, but
I’m not so sure about myself. Do I have
the capacity for “a” as in “apple” and
“e” as in “egg” and what is the difference between
“egg” and “apple” — I’m starting to lose it.
In poetry, too, I want my syllables, not accents.
I want to count feet without stumbling.
(I know everyone, including the native speakers,
struggles with prosody; so I’m not alone–
it takes studying. But then,
I hear of others, to whom it comes naturally–
That I’m not one of those other people
is a belief worth unpacking before
dread and hopelessness set in. What’s the point of
trying if I’m not slated for genius?)
Anyway, why bother? Poetry, they say,
has been lost to TV and iGadgets.
Why is it that when others say this, they sound
delicious and when I say this, it
feels as though I were depressed and
distracted and looking for excuses?
My son hides under the table from his
flash cards and I meet him on the rug
knowing that I too should wrestle
with poetry. It is scary, boooo,
and I should try harder…