There is too much power in names, I think.
There is a change the moment the word
shakes loose like a rainstorm,
from your mouth.
Like when I was young and out
past the neighbor’s yard
farther into the woods.
There was broken light and the smell of wet damp leaves.
Dan was there, and we did not tread lightly, he and
my sister and I. We stomped through wet leaves,
wet leaves that belonged to us the way the world
belongs to the very young.
We sang loud,
keeping the darkness at bay.
The snake was there, heavy
and slick half its body under leaves.
We formed a wide semi-circle
as if coming in for the kill.
Dan held a stick.
I remember my fear.
Is it dead, my sister said.
No, Dan answered.
And we knew, at that moment, it was true.
We had to go forward, a sort of
manifest destiny of our woodland ownership,
the snake lying prostrate through the path,
tempting and begging.
We argued over who would go first.
And then there it was, like a bell,
like a salvation, my mother’s voice,
crossing the distance between my home
and this creature, cutting a swath through the air.
The sound of my name.
And I turned and ran, free.
This is the power of names.
But it works the other way too,
when we are older and I call your name,
the word coming together, shaking itself from me.
As you cross the street you
look back for a second.
And I say it again, desperate
and you nod a little but
you keep walking.
13 hours ago