Names, Words, Names

Some words are only names, but some
are grenades of color— How else to explain
the corrosive red of dragonfruit, tart

and scaly pucker in each syllable of rattan,
pale, warning-light diminutions of the loquat,
lightning fire asleep but rousable in cobalt,

fermenting sweetness in ambrosia (and oh,
Ambrosia, weren’t you the long-legged girl
every boy on the street fell in love with

and could not wait to date)? And some names
are not merely words but decoys popping up
on the shore of bland expectation,

paint a little off, or streaking, or applied
to all the wrong places— For instance,
the students tonight doing freewrites

on language, begin to share: one says,
The guy I work out with at the gym
is Evian; his sister is Dasani, and all

his other siblings are named after
bottled water
. And the student
whose mother works as a nurse

at a clinic pipes up, Once there was
a girl who pronounced her name like this:
Shi’thay-ed; Shi’thay-ed, but on the form

it read “Shithead.” And the class by now
has burst into uncontrollable farts
of laughter. And all the rest

of the evening they shake their heads
and ask, Really? Who names their child
Shithead, Shi’thay-ed, Shithead?


In response to Via Negativa, Remembering Rio.

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