The Task of Naming Me
I don’t think the task of naming me
fell to my father because they thought
the sex of the child was decided by the sperm—
I don’t think they knew that. They thought that giving
a name was a big deal, so it should be
a man who did it—and my mother was grieving,
her Father in heaven had given her
another daughter. In the room where new parents
pay and check out, they won’t let you take
your baby home if you haven’t named her.
I think there would have been a flourish,
a flash for the nurses in his dark brown eyes,
a delay as he closed his eyes and held his
frat-boy finger above the open
Bible, then brought his digit down into the
creek-bed of eros, the laid-open
lady book, and touched my name.
This morning I wondered if it was on purpose
he opened the book way back in war,
in Kings and Numbers, letting the Psalms
and Proverbs and Ecclesiastes go by,
good-bye to Isaiah and Jeremiah,
and stopped, blind, at the narrow window
of a song—the slot for the crossbow’s arrow
between turret bulges—he touched my name among
the roses and the lilies, I rose up
under my father’s thumb, and his fruit was
sweet to my taste, and the shade of his presence
has been all my life a rich and enduring night.
Copyright © 2019 Sharon Olds. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Winter 2019.