Autobiography of a Name
Another girl – that’s what my father said.
Five! Disgusted, he went out for a drink.
He had a crush on Debra Paget, a B list
movie starlet. My mom took classes with her
at Hollywood Professional High so
she said yes, as long as we spell it right.
“Ann” came from my mother’s then-best friend.
Lived downstairs, shared cigarettes, coffee,
rides to the grocery store. Two women, camaradas
in this war called womanhood. I know how it is:
sick kids, errant husbands, secrets no one
else knows to this day. Best friends -
till one moves away. Or runs away,
and never comes back.
And "Miranda," well, that’s from some Spaniard
who made it across the monster-pocked Atlantic,
sponsored a neofito, some tribeless Indian
with a name in the Devil's tongue; saved him
at the baptismal font way down at the tip of Baja,
back when California was still an island,
still hoarding her gold like a coquette.
From that tiny barren mission, the newly-
minted Mirandas walked all the way up the coast
to Monterey. Imagine that journey. I can’t.
Talk about tough. Tough, and fertile.
Twelve kids in fourteen years; three survived.
So I carry these names, these stories,
these people around on my body like little pebbles
picked up from all the places I’ve been.
In one pocket, Debra’s best movies: Broken Arrow,
Ten Commandments. In another, Ann’s brief loyalty
to my mother when a friend meant a hand,
across a ravenous abyss. And that Spaniard:
Soldier? Colonist? Priest? Did he leave his family
behind, flee the Inquisition? Which ship was he on?
Did he rape Indian women? Sic dogs on children?
It is difficult to imagine a nice Conquistador
in Baja California in the 1600s. But I carry him
around, too. He is the rock in my shoe,
a sharp piece of gravel named choice,
luck, cruelty, kindness. I carry his name
like the son my father wanted. A name
that lives on, tags us, marks us with a beacon
visible for centuries.
- ► 2012 (21)
- ▼ 2011 (11)
- ► 2010 (23)
- ► 2009 (21)