What’s In a Name

I often see him restlessly seated
on a padded chair
in the maternity ward waiting room;

A man of Jewish descent,
rogue in ways; salty
tough ex-marine with wet,
splintered toothpick loosely hanging
from the left side of his mouth.

Father’s approaching him
in black with white-collar,
a certificate with blank spaces
in one hand.
“Jack Lawrence” Father says.
“Yes”, states the tall strong marine,
fresh tattoo’s visible
on buff right and left biceps.
“Your wife just gave birth
to a son, congratulations”
Jack’s eyes gleam proud
as he shakes Father’s hand.

Father says “Have you thought of a name?”
Jack says, “well, I have one in mind,
I like to keep a theme
(“I like to gamble” he thinks to himself)

I thought I might call him

Vegas Ace.”

Priest’s face flinches
while searching for words
and some composure to
change Jack’s mind.
Priest speaks respectfully;
“Well, in all seriousness
“Jack, this is your son.
That is some name to live with.”
Jack looks down, Father speaks again;

“Jack, Las Vegas
is nicked named Sin City,

Ace, represents a hierarchy
of Tarot cards.

Are these really the names
you wish to give your boy?

Can you think on this for a bit?
I can come back in a few minutes.”

Was hard for Jack to let go.
He loved to write;
Themes for names were important —
He really loved gambling as sport.
He never saw wrong in it;
Craps in the narrow Brooklyn streets as a child,
Poker in a basement before work,
trips to bet on the ponies when in season.

He named his last boy “Brandon Kent” after cigarette brands.

He thinks some more.
The angst on his face turns light.
Father returns and says, “well Jack,
did you think about it?”

Jack; “I thought maybe,
if I go up a city and down a card

that might work better.
I like the way It sounds;

Reno King Lawrence.”

Father’s footsteps fade,
Birth Certificate blanks filled in.
Jack sits down proudly, relieved —
He just solved the challenge in his theme.

The picture of Jack interacting
with Father became vivid
as dad told that story several
times as I was growing up.

Seems, a name says more
about those who give them;

The name that goes before us
and follows us close behind;
distinct syllables
define as a yell
burn with familiarity
through heaps of white noise,

and that which we really are

turns and gives response.

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4 responses

  1. The saddest thing unspoken, but echoing loudly in this poem, for me, is the fact that the father was choosing the name, not both parents together.

    • Sadder was that they married because of the pregnancy. On a good note: Dad never walked from responsibility (as he perceived it) Mom was a pretty sexy German/French woman who had 5 children going into this marriage. They met living in the same Apt. complex. She barely spoke much English, hence, probably why Father was going to my dad to get a name for the Birth Certificate. Mom was in love and was extremely glad to have met a man that would take care of her and her children fresh from Germany. I am sure she didn’t have much of a clue as to what any of the names stood for. Thank God she didn’t pick a German name like Bobby, Gunter, or Hilmer.
      All this being said to my fathers defense; I loved my father dearly, yet, I had a rocky relationship with him (read Stains). My Mother is the spiritual and creative light in my life; She is an artist, craftswoman, bohemian, and the most positive spiritual light I know. I am blessed she is still with us.

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