Fall 2019 / Poetry 2019 / Volume 50

On Changing Her Name By: Eric Paul Shaffer

From the time I placed a plastic infant

in a stroller, I knew my name

 

wasn’t really mine. In school, I scrawled

Steep, angled letters between faint blue rules,

but like that broken center line,

 

the one stitched through the heart

of the letters’ hoops and loops and crosses,

 

I knew my name was only practice.

One day, love would deliver me a new one,

 

and I would pass my finger through a ring

and become someone else. Who was I

to keep a name I was born to outgrow,

 

like the shirts and shorts of kindergarten?

Yet I mistake myself for my old self

 

sometimes when I sign a letter

or a check, and I stare at the eclipsed signature

 

of someone I once was and could have been,

but for the rites of love and ink marking me,

one seated now at a kitchen table

 

in a slant of summer sun through a window

as wide as morning in a locked house.

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