745: My Name Is Not The Cruelest Month

745: My Name Is Not The Cruelest Month

745: My Name Is Not The Cruelest Month


I’m Shira Erlichman, and this is The Slowdown.

My name Shira means poem, proving that my parents are certifiable psychics. Still, growing up I was constantly asked, “She-Ra? Like He-Man’s sister?” They weren’t trying to erase me, but they weren’t seeing me either. A name is a restless infinity, a Russian doll of meanings and histories.

When I taught high school I met a poised student named QueenStar. In college I was lucky to chat on a bus with a woman called Patience. I once knew a quiet boy, Miles. His dad was a cab driver.

This is how I know the world is populated by secret poets. They’re everywhere, blessing newborns with all kind of funk and labyrinth––with a title so uniquely and hotly theirs.

We name pets after food. Hurricanes, after people. A gorgeous blemish on Mars was dubbed “Octavia E. Butler Landing” after the legendary science fiction author. All maps tremble with human declaration and erasure. So much land bears a complicated patchwork––a bloodwork––of names. There’s power in placing syllables in a certain order and launching them into space.

QueenStar. Miles. Patience.

Today’s poem is an exercise in reclamation. In it, the poet writes like a whirling dervish, spinning in luminous circles, undressing her name for its essence.

My Name Is Not The Cruelest Month
by April Ranger

It’s always men who dust off that old quote. 
Not All Men.  But you know. The ex-boyfriend, the well-read 

silver-haired customer tugging at my apron while my hands 
are stacked with plates. The only thing I can say definitively
about T. S. Eliot is that we never met. If you met me, 
you might call me Open, which is also a meaning of April. 

Abril, I prefer the Spanish way, the rolled R, 
the real, sounds like a wheel down a dirt road.
If you met me, you’d know 
                                           I am a dirt road 

                                         & the wild flowers’ ragged edge: Queen Anne’s Lace, goldenrod,  
                                         the clover’s purple blossom, the turtle’s belly dragging through dust. 

If you’ve ever seen an opening in a forest where sunlight 
                                                                      pours & pours, you know my name. 

If you’ve ever opened your palm wide as it could stretch 
while a cat or dog muzzled its head for more 
                                                             & more, you know my name. 

If you’ve ever opened the tiny door in a restaurant bathroom 
that said Do Not Open and it was only filled with toilet paper 
& soap but it thrilled you anyway, 
                                               you know my name. 

If you’ve opened the front of your shirt button by button 
when it was so cold your breath was a cloud, but those hands, 
those warm hands, 
                                                yes, you know my name. 

If you’ve slit the envelope so fast it tore the letter, 
                                                                                                   you know my name. 

When I was twenty I found my father’s high school diary 
in the attic & yes, I opened it & read it 
                                                                                                   & this is also my name 

& maybe it was wrong, but it helped me love him better 
                                                                                                                             & this is also my name, 

 the sound of curtains sliding past, that shing along the rod 
                                                                                             & sudden breeze on your skin 
                                                                                                                                         & rain, of course, 
                                                                                                                              I will answer to Rain. 

"My Name Is Not the Cruelest Month" by April Ranger. Used by permission of the poet.