Portrait with Scales and USCIS Form N-400

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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.