Primary Stress – Akshi Chadha

In a sweltering Delhi classroom, my English teacher

asks me where I get my accent from.


I say the TV though I don’t understand the question.

I bookmark my reader with doubt, ponder it homeward.


At home, open the dictionary—the crusted spine

cracking at the excavation. It claims the spoken word—


the stress, the murmur, the quiet—is distinctive

to a nation from which you burgeon.


The tongue localizes ancestral ordeal;

to defy its calling is to blaspheme home soil.


My eyes skid to undo,

unlearn extended vowels and careful cadence.


I blame Hannah Montana and Maguire’s Spider-man.

Television slack water speech:


the Rs become a soft breath,

the Ts an effortful


de-emphasis. Survivalist naturalism.

I shut the dictionary at inevitability;


wonder how the teacher

might begin to cure


my untethered tongue swaying

like breeze-tickled wildflowers,


how she might thread a windswept petal

back into the sepal of evanescing origin.

Akshi Chadha is a writer and literary editor. She is currently pursuing an MA in Creative writing at the University of Toronto. She is the recipient of the 2021 Alfred Poynt Award in Poetry. Her work has been published in The Roadrunner ReviewWatch Your Head, and Occasus. You can find out more about her work at

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