Say My Name

I hear you stretch the vowels
like a grey funnel cloud,
the consonants unbending,
fighting the twisting wind,
your eyes feeling new texture
between familiar sounds,
as you try,
to say my name;

My grandfather sniggers
from his rocking chair,
his arthritic hand
tugging the sacred thread
across his chest,
my mother is reeling off names,
six generations of ancestors
and a thousand and one gods,
I breathe,
I turn,
I try to teach you;

I tell you the ancient meaning,
as if it will change your intonation,
as if it will soften everything,
as if it will sound
like the first rain,
like the aftertouch of time,
I try to tell you
how words should taste on your tongue
in the morning,
words, things, names;

You shrug,
I smile, again,
and somewhere in the twilight,
my mother’s back bent over the oil lamps,
grandpa asleep, his mouth open,
his English newspaper open on the floor;
somewhere it falls unspoken,
between the silken bamboo mats,
hard consonants splintering on mosaic tiles,
syllables rolling silently into the unlit corners,
somewhere a name,
falls unheeded, unneeded,
tasting of untimely rain,
untaught, unlearnt,
I smile, again.


For Poets United where the midweek prompt is Teaching.

19 thoughts on “Say My Name

    1. I think it’s so interesting that you connected it to teaching a child, particularly in its adopted country… love that. I wasn’t thinking of that at all, but I do see how it could work in that context. Thanks so much Robin.


  1. Bringing words/names back to life from the dead is a true teaching, hearing them and singing with them the best kind of learning. I wonder what it feels like to let go of an un-needed name? Freeing, I suspect.


  2. You paint the scene so vividly I can see the grandfather with his mouth open, the mother’s
    rounded back. I love “six generations of ancestors, a thousand and one gods”, and “the afterttouch of time”. Wow. Love this poem!


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