How simple a thing it seems to me that to know ourselves as we are, we must know our mothers’ names.” — Alice Walker
In the family Bible
I discovered my grandmother’s real name,
before she had to change it,
not to be more “American,”
but to be less of a Southerner,
back when those who had just arrived
from Georgia were looked down upon,
red clay dirt still under their fingernails,
eyes still searching for greenery over this
grey concrete and black asphalt.
Theosa is a beautiful name—
but the schoolkids acted like
the melody was caught in their throats
like fried catfish bones.
So she changed it to a Northern name
that they could embrace more
and bully less. Now all that was left
was her longing for what
her parents were glad to leave behind:
dense woods and forest
where one never knew who
they’d run into,
from a poplar tree.