On Names

I have spent a lifetime
in the shadows of an unwanted inheritance;
an inherited name given without my consent.
a lifetime behind, in front, under, and over,
crawling to escape
and carve out an identity of my own.
an identity outside the lineage of men,
a lineage passed on by men,
and women who love men that are unloveable.

I have spent a lifetime stepping out of this shadow
desiring to disrupt the passing of this paternal name,
disrupt the keeping of names:
which get kept?
which become forgotten?
who does the telling?
I cannot,
will not,
be like them.

so I now use my full name,
José Alfredo,
to soften the blow.
searching for the faintest taste of honey,
of freedom,
in a mouth caked with
forgotten resentment,
a throat full of suppressed bile.

when I ask you and others
to call me José Alfredo,
to call me by my given name–
the name given to me by a woman,
who, possessing distaste for her own name,
crossed continents
with two tiny lives made from her cells and ribs
to claim an identity of her own,
only to be received on the other side by empty arms;
a name blessed by the callused, worked hands
of a now-gone abuela,
this woman’s mother,
who in a world of poor and working-class dreamless dreams
dreamt her own children and grandchildren would have more
than she could ever dream for her own life–
know that it is not that I am trying be trendy
nor usurp an identity not my own.
but rather my desire, my relentless attempt,
to reconcile myself:
fuse together my public and private identities,
my public and private realities.
to no longer be Jose at school
and José Alfredo at home.

I am only trying to find myself
in a world that constantly erases me,
invalidates my existence,
actively tries to destroy me.

so when you say José Alfredo,
know that the extra effort your breath takes to push out
an additional three syllables
can make the world of a difference,
makes all the difference to me.
allows me to be seen.
no longer lost in a sea of unoriginality,
no longer lost in the shuffle
or rendered invisible:
a speck of dust
in white America.