Sticks and Stones


Sticks and Stones

When I was a child, I was afraid of my name.
Tender, I was a shuddering tailfin:

shark-bit and gray. In order to purge fear
I'd recite my name until it sounded

of helicopter blades or ghosts. Oliver, Oliver, Oliver
soon morphed into ah! liver!

and other children soon became
harmoniously red in their jests

like the blur of a pinwheel. Sky-eyed,
I would endure octaves, decrees,

whole legions of stutters. How martyred was I
in my resignation? How wind-swept and pure?

The world was lush and androgynous. We were little
naked birds chirring into the others' ears, him to her.

One child, later, wanted to eat my name,
her mouth large and terrible. It rent, slow ...

sinister, a split in the sails of a skiff doomed.
Dead in the water. Other children would resuscitate it

so that the name was constant as wind through canyons.
There were caves and there were caves.

Dangerous little fluids, we were trickling, then still
giving a pause to breathe. And again we would take up

these pellets and dash them against our ears
leaving depressions nudged enough to hold water.

I still don't know what resides at the back of one's mouth.
All of it is forgery: steel to stone and wood to bone.