Jul 10
(Teddy Brauner GPO)

Don’t Change my Name

Poetica Magazine, ADRPAward Third Place

changing Ethiopian names
is an old immigrant story
my grandfather
and his brothers
were known
by different last names

don’t tell me who I am
a piece of paper
curled into a cigarette
smoked up
in one puff

so we argue over my grandfather’s grave
was his name Nachum Shalom
or David Nachum
or Ben David
or Hacham
I only knew him as Abba Nagi
the singsong saying
over any scroll
didn’t really matter
to me
to him now

you learn as an immigrant
that home is in your heart
so beat that drum song strong
and smile
welcome the birthland people
they have no idea
they’re strangers to themselves
they’ve never had to know their heart
it takes crossing borders for that

and who knows those frayed edges
better than one
without a passport
or a parent’s grave to visit
or a birth certificate
or a bank account with all those verified official paper facts

I look for heart whispers
that call my name

and my grandfathers and his fathers
and those before him
and I know that I am at home
in the embrace
of what cannot be named