Tell Me Your Name
by Theodora Goss
Tell me your first name. Tell me
your last name, the one your father gave you,
your patronymic. Tell me your middle name,
the one you don’t like, which was also
your grandfather’s name, which he did not like either,
going always by his initials. Tell me your mother’s
maiden name, which you use as a pseudonym
on the covers of your novels.
Tell me the nickname you went by in high school,
and then the one you went by in middle school,
and elementary school. Tell me what your parents called you
when you were too small, they thought, for the mouthful
written on your birth certificate.
Tell me the name your first girlfriend gave you,
as well as the one you gave yourself in your blanket fort,
your secret name. Tell me, additionally, your superhero name,
your Indian chief name, your policeman name,
the name you had when you were a pirate,
when you were an airplane. What was your name
on your fake i.d., on the debate team, in law school?
What did your first wife call you when she was pleased,
and when she was angry? When you were in bed together?
What was your name when you became a father?
What do people call you when they think you are someone else?
What is your name in dreams? What do you call yourself
when you wish you were someone else, an airline pilot,
a CIA agent, an artist whose models are in love with him?
What does your mother call you, even now?
What does your dog call you when he wants to go out?
What name do the mountains use when they summon you?
What name does the rain know you by? Who are you to the birds,
and to the trees? What name do the sidewalks use
to gossip about you on your way to work in the morning?
When night comes and sings you lullabies,
whom does she sing to?
What was your name before you were born,
the name you had before there were names,
before the stars were made? Whisper
it in my ear, beloved, and I’ll tell you mine.
(The image is The Moon and Sleep by Simeon Solomon.)