The Namings

I used to think I could do anything
with enough effort—throw a rope
at the night and lasso in the moon,
or jump from a tree
and beat my arms into wings
like an owl, its feathers nothing
more than decoration, nothing my naked
arms couldn’t match. I was an imaginative
child. An imbecile in some circles.
It is not nice to call someone names.
I was the name-caller. I said Little White
Sickle to the moon. I said Big Head Bird
to the owl. I said Mom, and I said Dad.
I thought if I shouted these names loud
enough, then someone would respond.
These days I have seen my best
efforts fail. All the love I’ve poured
into a person. Or them into me.
How I’ve failed to open myself
properly to receive their names.
Love. Love bird. I have been called
so many names. I have so many
identities I never meant to adopt.
In the dark, the owls hoot at each other
and I shout back: me, me, me.

Kien Lam