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Poems may be my most permanent home…

Painting: Arush Votsmush, Russia

“It was never sense, but the
Singing of light. At six, I abandoned
the fraught letters of scrabble strewn
before our family of four

to color the ambulances smudged
blue and green through a window in rain:
a poet dizzied by the bilingual
burdened by the weight of sprouting

word-wings.”


My relationship to language is a weight I cannot push away. Throughout my childhood, my family moved between Russia, England, and multiple regions in the US (never staying in one place for more than 3 or 6 years). Everywhere I went, I faced confusion, the pressure to assimilate, and difficulty at school. Torn by multiple grammars and cultures, I was a wanderer in a double sense: I had no home and no language. Language was too permeable to find any cohesive form.

For most of my youth, I felt pulled to the visual arts, magic, percussion, and filmmaking. Perhaps, I found an escape, a blank space, where the contradictions of words could resolve themselves. I felt fluent in the vocabulary of the visual. Though I didn’t write poetry, I was always charged by the musicality of Russian poets, especially Mayakovsky, Esenin, and Joseph Brodsky. I didn’t enjoy their work because it made sense to me intellectually. I enjoyed it because I was swept up in an super-intellectual reality. Through a sensory-emotional experience, I felt understood as a whole.

After completing my senior-year high school film project, I became frustrated with my crashing film editing console and the bureaucracy of music rights. Words began to reveal themselves as my most trusted tools and I could not stop reading, writing, and performing poetry. Luckily, I was exposed to the electrifying oratory of my father, a Soviet dissident pastor. Far from a weight or a burden, the playful use of language gave me a way to self-define as opposed to be defined by the world. The words of poetry offered vehicles for more accurate self-understanding. Today, I am almost tempted to say, poems may be my most permanent home.