Etymology of Your Name

by Courtney Tala


               after Martín Espada

                         for Mila 


Huddled together in the hospital waiting room,

nine of us share five chairs. In the maternity ward, 

a tone chimes through a speaker to signal 

each new birth and we wait for a sound to mark

the inception of your life. You, an impossible 

embryo that made it full-term.


The prefix in- means negative, as in the minus sign

forming on each plastic test, and when paired with its root word 

fertilis, it became something too much to bear. 

So none of us spoke, just spent years holding our breath.

But now, somewhere a song floats over our heads and the doors

swing open, revealing your father, eyes wild and weary,


his arms raised in victory. The entire room 

breathes and the tension in your grandma’s neck 

unwinds. Your grandpa grabs her hand, his eyes looking 

to the ceiling to make space for what is welling 

and we celebrate, a jubilant tangle of limbs.


You do not know that three were lost before you,

or that two more were lost since.

You do not know that no more will come after,

that only will become a word to you as familiar as home.

You don’t know yet that milagro means miracle,

just that Mila is your name, and we sing it, an off-key chorus 

filling the room with its sound.

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