a) an oval or round object that is laid & contains a developing embryo
b) a roundish home from which the hungry sprout
c) a boundary from the living because we are not ready to live yet
This is long work. A finding spell
for roots destined to twine.
CALL ME (MOTH)
That’s what my parents (Jim & Marcia) named me.
My brother got a “normal” name: Zachary.
My mom’s sister (Mary)
didn’t like the name her parents (William & Juliet) gave her.
She changed her name to Jacqueline.
(Jack) for short.
I’ve thought about changing my name.
with no one to really mind.
Given or replaced, names hang to your bones like forever suits.
When I die people will still say, (Moth),
she was great at dancing before she stopped.
She might have gone all the way,
danced at Juilliard, been the next Misty Copeland.
Like I still say, Zachary was a pyromaniac, which is probably why,
with a name like Moth, we were the musketeers of night—
the torch & the moth.
Like I still say, Jim & Marcia were really into Shakespeare,
their favorite play was A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Names outgrow you, like a garden left untended;
they don’t disappear
with the science that keeps our bodies alive.
Jesus is still Jesus, alive, dead & resurrected—
& if we forget, headstones remind us that names
slouch on without bodies.
So even though my name is strange
I have to live with it.
It has been with my nerves for far too long;
my name is a thick wilderness
of angelica root around me,
crafted for my spirit.
& mostly because that is what they
(Jim & Marcia) named me.
ALMOST SUMMER (AGAIN)
Two summers ago our car broke in half
like a candy bar on the freeway & we all spilled
onto the pavement as crumbled as sticky caramel-peanut filling.
I broke three ribs & my stomach tore.
I fractured a leg & was gifted
a scar as crisp as the tip of a whip from jaw to eye that I trace
most in summer, when the sunrays make it feel so chapped,
I have to smooth Vaseline over it daily.
It was the start of summer, we (Mom, Dad, brother & me)
left New York to visit Aunt Jack in Northern Virginia.
Before we broke in half
All of our beaten bodies made it to the haunted hospital
overrun with figures in white, smelling like
formaldehyde & alcohol wipes.
Aunt Jack prayed & prayed & bit her nail beds ruddy—
but there is only so much prayer & if god takes sacrifices,
only so much blood to offer.
That day there was only enough prayer
& blood for one of us to walk out.
NOW I LIVE A SECONDHAND LIFE
After the accident & the scar like the tip of a whip
I changed schools to live with Aunt Jack in the suburbs.
I go to a school that is 94 percent white
with only six Black kids—who don’t talk to me.
This is nothing new.
Black kids sealed
their lips to me in New York, too.
I’ve always been
a passing breeze,
felt but never seen
unless I was dancing.
Maybe here, in this Virginia suburb,
everyone glues their lips shut because
I don’t wear North Face & UGGs. I like girls
as much as boys.
I don’t slingshot the n-word so I am not white or Black enough—
I am not something to anyone.
Or maybe here
silence took root because
first impressions matter
& two Septembers ago Aunt Jack,
who is single & after the accident began drinking
too much, didn’t buy me shorts that fit, so I had to borrow hers.
I had to roll them up
to craft shorts instead of capris—
I started sophomore year
(shoes, shirt, backpack, socks, shorts).
Everything borrowed from my head to the tips of my toes.
It’s fine, I don’t mind being nothing
to no one, unrooted on every soil
my feet trespass on.
It’s fine, it’s just
in New York, two summers ago,
the funeral was rudely everything but mournful—
the birds tittled & tattled & the leaves insisted
on sunsetting over the urns & everything I wore
was borrowed, even my time felt borrowed.
So now when I (Moth) think of summer
I don’t think of Southern sweet tea rotting my teeth,
or staying with Grandfather for two weeks,
or bikinis & cheap beer smuggled in too-large purses.
I don’t think of riding the wind
or lying down in soft grass
twisting clouds into shapes.
I think of candy bars breaking in half.
Copyright © 2021 by Amber McBride