Lynne Thompson

She, Named P___ At Birth, Speaks To Me, Says

“You think you know who you are;
you do not. You think everything’s great
in your gravy train life, your feet up
on the taboret, sipping fingers of Pernod
and blowing smoky O’s of Gauloise
like you were born to it. You were not.
You were born at County Gen., the random
upshot of a collision between an urgent
virgin, a married man, and the backseat
of a Studebaker though everyone knows
there was no joy the night you got made.
You came into this world on cotton rough
from 10,000 washings. The doc showed up
late, then spilled a little Maxwell House
on the sheets; the nurses yawned. Mama cried
for you for sixteen hours before her water broke
and she’s been in labor for you all her life. But
no one came; no one came to see. So in time,
mama just gave you away. Of course,
you don’t remember that just like you don’t
remember me. Me, who never got the pretty
dresses. Never got the vacations at the beach.
Never sat down with the family to eat lamb
and mint jelly on a sunny Easter day. No,
you don’t remember me. It’s as though you
were born to the manor, born to speak lousy
French and read Edwardian novels in a hot-
house, to gad about at high-tone schools,
to raise your finger just so, so the ruby shines.
But you don’t know who you really are, Miss
Don’t-Remind-Me, Miss Given-Away-Four-
Times-Until-You-Were-Taken-For-Good. Well,
you got my blood in your veins and you ain’t
no fancy dancer, you ain’t no pearls and piety,
you ain’t no seashell by the seashore, and you
sure ain’t no evening out at Lincoln Center.
You got me in your veins, got my chipped white
fence, my regular job, my 39-dollar-a-night
room in Vegas, and this name that ain’t gonna be
at the end of any poem. But don’t worry, my sister,
my slip of a pen, I’ll never let you forget the night
you were born, my name was all you had.”

Lynne Thompson
“She, Named P___ At Birth, Speaks To Me, Says” is from Beg No Pardon (Perugia Press, 2007).