In my world we have a placeholder name we are given at birth
and a real one we pluck from the air by ourselves later,
the one we recognize immediately when it arrives.
In our tradition when we partner
we plant a dogwood tree by the door
of our first private home
and cut our chosen names into the young bark.
Custom dictates that every day, before sunrise,
before we go our ways, we rise together
and touch the wounded trunk, so that
we have at least that connection
before the day to day divides us.
No one knows how this all began.
I firat thought of my name
on the occasion of my first forbidden coitus
but only settled upon it
when at last both my parents
had passed. I’ve never said it out loud
or carved it anywhere. It’s my name,
a hideous name, an ugly breath
but my own.
If there is a house out there
with a yard big enough for a tree
that could hold two names
as thick and ugly as mine,
I’ve not found it yet.
When it happens, when it appears before me,
when I learn the big name of my partner
and there comes at last the carving time,
we will not plant a dogwood, of that I’m sure:
more likely an oak, even a banyan
if we’re somewhere a banyan will thrive.
Perhaps we’ll plant no tree at all
and just whisper our chosen names together
before each sunrise. Maybe at sunset, too.
Our names will be enough to make it pretty,
whatever we choose to do.