Notice how just one syllable—
say Jack—can expand and become
the world, round and whole,
when it is a child’s name
being formed by a mother’s mouth.
I’ve overheard women in stores and airports,
restaurants and trains, sprinkling their talk
with the name of a brand new baby or
a grown child, say Morgen or Nora,
Michael or Kyle, Joseph or Ava-Rose,
singing each vowel and consonant
so they stand out, resonate
a pure bell whether the tone struck
be proud and strong, a major key,
or a diminished minor note.
Sometimes, when my daughter catches
her own name, Elaine May, part of a story
I am telling a sister over the phone,
later she’ll ask, quasi-annoyed,
were you talking about me?
Yes, endlessly, shamelessly, I tell stories
about you. I say those fluid syllables,
chosen for the meaning—light—
the music, and to honor your grandmothers,
chosen after discarding countless names.
Yes, I say them again and again and wonder
at the world they have become. Is this
how God says our names? Is this why sometimes
when I hear the wind rustling through the trees,
I turn and listen?"Saying Our Names" by Marianne Murphy Zarzana. Published in Dust & Fire, 2002.
Image: "Storyteller," acrylic painting by Kate Langlois (originally full color).