I sign my middle name to my poetry
because it’s my mother’s,
blotted out by my father
like an eclipse.
My dad’s brief ownership of her
can never erase the woman that bore me,
the woman that cared for me,
the woman that went back to school for me,
worked through days
and studied by night for me.
The woman that never let education be an option for me:
Even when she had a child and divorce by age 23,
because of her I stand here with a Master’s degree.
Because of her I can spout from memory:
“Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse my name!”
Well, if you insist.
I’ve been denying mine since I was 16 and he checked out on me.
My dad point and shot at a cocktail waitress in his bar
with the skills of a drunk Cupid.
But I was a secret my mom needed to uncover.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” she said.
“But I knew I wanted to be a mother.”
The name is hard to spell,
harder to pronounce.
My last name is cleaner.
But goddamnit my mom worked for every letter,
so I’ll tote it around like a badge of honor
and even if someday a man wants me to birth his daughter,
her middle same will be my blood.
My mom’s blood.
Her mom’s blood: