how my mother named me
BY ERIC TRAN
She forgets English words. To her, I live
in North Coraline, even when I leave her
my address on a Post-It. She forgot
the baby name book in the lobby,
because when you’re screaming
the name of a goddess you left
overseas, you’ll forget names
of other folks’ kids. She settled
on Eric—eternal, ruler,
destroyer. She hates the name
but it’s fast and easy to write
on form after form after form
you don’t understand. Credit to her
I could have been named ultrasound
or sterile, or gook or chink
or dragon lady. I imagine
she heard that like a mosquito
bite you’ve scratched into scar.
She wishes she had named me better
in a language we no longer share.
Expensive dragon, she translates, but no,
not when six aunts shared a bedroom
right before my birth. Golden,
like what they traded smugglers
for safety, what they didn’t have
for food in the camps. Not that
either. I would give you more examples
of what keeps us apart, my soft
hands, but she keeps from me
those memories. Precious.
That’s it. Precious dragon.