Poetry: "Named"

He’d spent his life trying to control the names
people gave him;
oh the unfair and the accurate equally hurt.

Just recently he’d been a son-of-a-bitch
and sweetheart in the same day,
and once again knew what antonyms

love and control are, and how comforting
it must be to have a business card –
Manager, Specialist – and believe what it says.

Who, in fact, didn’t want his most useful name
to enter with him,
when he entered a room, who didn’t want to be

that kind of lie? A man who was a sweetheart
and a son-of-a-bitch
was also more or less every name

he’d ever been called, and when you die, he thought,
that’s when it happens,
you’re collected forever into a few small words.

But never to have been outrageous or exquisite,
no grand mistake
so utterly yours it causes whispers

in the peripheries of your presence – that was
his fear.
“Reckless”; he wouldn’t object to such a name

if it came from the right voice with the right
amount of reverence.
Someone nearby, of course, certain to add “fool.”

— Stephen Dunn

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