Poems about What We Call Things
My mother calls my name with three
short a‘s tangled in roots of dandelions.
Gold tufts that grow no matter who tries
to pull them up. These a‘s hide in the black
crescent of dirt under my nails and swallow
my s’s when my young tongue is learning
how to say my name. My grandmother calls me
to her kitchen stool with three glass-blown
a‘s perched on my vertebrae: all feather, royal
red stretching a thread the length of my spine,
drawing me up tall and narrow. These a’s
are helium on the roof of her mouth. She
inspects my nails and scrubs the moons clean.
Those ducks in the baseball field are plastics bags.
on the window frame
is chipped paint.
That old maple tree
melting through chain link
is your neighbor’s
The alarmed flight
of sandhill cranes
is your window A/C unit.
The man thrown
into the street
is a stop sign
swept in headlights.
You are not waiting
alone at the bus stop
is an oak tree.
A raccoon curls
into the storm grate.
You uncross your arms.
The crow looks up
from his preening.
The man blossoms
in your chest
and before you shout
he does not step off the curb
into the green light.
When I marry, I lose half the syllables
in my last name—a decision to sell
the dining table in a yard sale
because of who it reminds me of and not
because it isn’t sturdy. Unmoored
my signature sinks below the line
on my grocery store receipts
and cuts the paper dolls holding hands
at the wrist. None of us knew the West
Virginia tobacco farmer whose name
we’ve practiced. We hardly know each other,
but when I had all my syllables we appeared
like sisters. You can see we all have the same
square hands, are missing the same teeth.
I crowd documents with various combinations—
the given, sold, and stolen names—as if lifted
from the shelves of an airport gift shop.