from White Monkey [32.]

Translated by Christian Gullette

What’s in a name? she asks,

with her blonde hair,
and blue-eyed gaze,

her memories of summer cottages,

rhyming clues for Christmas gifts and debates over Finland’s
official languages.
“What’s in a name?”

She says
we ought to take my mother’s name
and pave the way for the future.

To show the name belongs
on book covers
and voting ballots.

And not just on the sign above an ethnic restaurant.

Easy for her to say, my mother says.

“She doesn’t bear the burden of the name like you do.
For her, the name is a sign of goodness,
of virtue,
a silk ribbon that leaves no trace 
when she removes it.”
I say change is always painful,
someone has to be the first.

Then it’ll have to be someone else, she says.

Can’t the name be one of my virtues? I ask.

She says,
You’ll just be their monkey.

Originally published in the March 2019 issue of Words Without Borders. From White Monkey © Adrian Perera. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2019 by Christian Gullette. All rights reserved.