Last week I taught a poetry workshop to a group of amazing 6th graders at Heninger Elementary School in Santa Ana. We explored identity through Sandra Cisneros’ piece “My Name” from her novella The House on Mango Street.
The irony of the fact that I had not, actually, written my own identity piece even as I was encouraging and challenging these young’ns to write theirs was not lost on me. I was convicted by my own lack of poetic conviction. So, here is my own “My Name” piece, which I based off of the English name I was given at birth. Hope it blesses you, and perhaps inspires you to explore and write your own “My Name.”
In my name is the slight unfolding of a flower whose petals fall fast into a surprise ending, quick like lightning, its seeds seeding deep into the soil beneath or riding the curves of the wind and scattering into your garden.
You can make a home in my name, it’s that steady and strong, like beams cut from evergreen trees that make roofs and rafters to cover you in storms; my name smells like forests of cedar, myrtle, and cypress that even in death shelter sparrows and robins.
It is a hand offering warmth and forgiveness, an open palm for fragile wings to land upon, rest, and take flight again—yes, sometimes my name is a springboard, a trampoline, a jet pack to launch you and your dreams into the furthest reaches of God’s imagination.
It is a weak thing, too, my name. A touch wrong and she will fracture into too many pieces; a gift of God’s grace handled with calloused unbelieving hands mis-shapes and crumbles; my name’s dreams hurt to recover from poisoned promises and broken beats.
Janet. The pause, the selah, in the middle of my name.
My name holds mysteries, books of wisdom. Whispers beloved, beloved, beloved; shouts grace grace grace; and my name, when eyes are closed, she weeps.