At the courthouse where they all raised
their hands and pledged allegiance to their
new country, she dropped "Maria"
from the name she was given at birth.
All she'd had to do was fill in her chosen
new name on the USCIS Form N-400
and say it during the swearing-in ceremony
presided over by the judge—and years of mild
annoyance and confusion would disappear
like magic. From now on, no one
would call out in an airplane queue
or doctor's waiting room "Mary?" "Maria?"
and have at least four women turn
their heads, except her. From now on,
no one would take the liberty of assuming
her nickname was either Marilou or Malou,
or any of their variants (without the o).
Her parents told her she'd been named
after a concert pianist they admired:
Maria Luisa Lopez Vito, born in Iloilo.
That famous pianist won a scholarship
to the Marlboro School in Vermont the year
she was born, where she studied with greats
like Rudolf Serkin. That famous pianist
loved baroque, Chopin, Ravel, and
the music written by Theodor Adorno—
who knew? Because of that famous pianist,
she herself was pushed into music
lessons at the age of three; she
learned notes, but wasn't a prodigy.
How is it possible to fulfill
the processes of expectation, and still
become the selves we're supposedly
meant to be? No one really calls her
those original names now. But sometimes
she wonders where that other half of her
has gone—whether that girl is stuck inside
a room learning German, practicing scales all day,
or playing one part of a piece for four hands.
Poet Luisa A. Igloria (Poetry Foundation web page, author webpage ) was recently appointed Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia (2020-2022). She is Co-Winner of the 2019 Crab Orchard Open Competition in Poetry for Maps for Migrants and Ghosts (Southern Illinois University Press, September 2020). She is the winner of the 2015 Resurgence Prize (UK), the world’s first major award for ecopoetry, selected by former UK poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion, Alice Oswald, and Jo Shapcott. She is the author of What is Left of Wings, I Ask (2018 Center for the Book Arts Letterpress Chapbook Prize, selected by former US Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey); Bright as Mirrors Left in the Grass (Kudzu House Press eChapbook selection for Spring 2015), Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser (Utah State University Press, 2014 May Swenson Prize), Night Willow (Phoenicia Publishing, 2014), The Saints of Streets (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2013), Juan Luna’s Revolver (2009 Ernest Sandeen Prize, University of Notre Dame Press), and nine other books. She is a member of the core faculty of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University which she directed from 2009-2015; she also teaches classes at The Muse Writers’ Center in Norfolk. In 2018, she was the inaugural Glasgow Distinguished Writer in Residence at Washington and Lee University. When she isn’t writing, reading, or teaching, she cooks with her family, knits, hand-binds books, and listens to tango music.