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