Russian Cognac

My hosts in Moscow thought I was Russian
Because my surname ends in s-k-y
And is identical to the names of
Famous Russian historical figures, streets, parks, theaters, stadiums.
Two generations ago
My family blood ran in a small village near Minsk,
Where relatives fought through pogroms and other conflicts.
So I suppose I am Russian,
Though I don't speak the language
Nor worship vodka.
But Moscow,
Cold and foreign,
Seemed welcoming and familiar.
I ate at a restaurant with my last name above the door,
Where I was treated like a celebrity,
An expatriate returned in triumph.
The owner asked if I wanted cognac.
I declined, but that meant nothing.
A squat bottle emblazoned with my name was thrust at me
Despite my protestations.
I drank until I couldn't see,
Until I understood the waiter when he said nazdrovia,
Until he invited me to banya, a steam bath.
He was just being friendly but I managed to decline in
Fear, self-doubt and inferiority,
And so became a true Muscovite.

© Poem Fix 2012

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