I taste a liquor never brewed—
From Tankards scooped in Pearl—
“I hoped the Unfounded would pierce the ribs of a tiger and in that gesture transfigure my own landscape into the infinite”
Hilda Hilst, With My Dog Eyes
“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.”
Today my name is her name, Shaimaa el-Sabbagh, poet and activist. My name contains another name, holds her where she falls. Disappears, plummets, is forced into marriage, across a border. Denied food or freedom. A name is beaten, sleeps on the floor. Hides between her lips, as a form of protection. A heavenly hundred in Ukraine. Today my name is Jaycee Lee Dugard. I am a 14-year-old Yazidi girl given as a gift to an ISIS commander. They killed my brother and tried to make me a concubine. I found a meat cleaver and broke out. I was sold in Syria. I am afraid to say my name, which means life. This is how I saved my sisters. They took us to Mosul to a three-story house. One hundred girls. I told them my sisters were pregnant, blind, married. From the safety of a shipping container. Someone must save them. Today my name is not safe. Only 17 years old, Mayat, not her real name, serves as a sex slave. My name is kept in a house under armed guards. I will not be able to remove this horror from my mind. I am the names of 300 hundred girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria. Child soldiers in training camp. Valeriy Brezdenyuk known for paintings on water. Antonia Dvoryanets, 62 years old. Participated in a picketing action. Beaten to death with clubs during clashes on Instytutska Street. A body may be destroyed. A name, like a soul, remains.
You can see it in her name.
For what is it, are we, inside those letters stenciled close enough together to form something complete. Near enough that one whisper aspirates, revives the next. The shoulders and skeletons of letters lean upon their neighbors, slope across false distance. Leading and kerning sway.
Name, nama, noma, noun, naam.
Ime, imene, imya ainm, anu
Greek onoma, omyma
Reputation circa 1300. Name as recognized, 1610’s
He who once a good name gets
May piss a bed and say he sweats, London 1811
Name calling, from 1846. To name, call, nominate, appoint. Nametag, 1903. Ancestral names, place names, topographical names, occupation names, office names, nicknames. When names are obsolete: Gilbert the baker might become Gilbert the Butcher. William the red (of red hair) now bald, became William ball, a bare patch.
My name is Riven. Split or torn apart, violently. Rent, archaic, split or cracked wood or stone. I chopped furiously, the dry wood riving and splintering under the ax. Split radially. Split, coven, rent. To tear, rend. From Old Norse, rifa, unknown origin. I am asunder. Broken. Not much is known about Riva. Rivka. Rebecca. I’ve already written one book to her. If you place those words together, “to” and “her” you have “toher” a new word meaning other. Toher is an Anglo-Saxon name for a person who scours and thickens raw cloth by trampling it in water derived from Old English tucian, which meant to torment and later to tuck or to full, courageous. Have I forgotten the idea of being someone else? Absolutely not. I’ve simply tired of documenting my failures. Instead I’ve chosen to become each individual word. The day was a sudden movement of long gangly bodies in and out of vehicles. Feeding them. Admiring them. Chastising or cautioning them. Guarding them. Making suggestions. By text message or telepathy. Be safe. Be honest. Be diligent, dear ones. Looking out the window too much may ruin you. Looking out the window not enough may also ruin you. Is my headache just a symptom, a synonym? What about my blood book? May I say only one of my she’s has written it?
I woke in a haze. My pseudonym must write for someone. Who? I’d like for her to write to recent runaways, jihadist brides. Who are they? What public image have they constructed, leaving their families shocked and bereft. The project of being someone else is largely an attempt to understand the creation of a public image, or lack thereof. In refusing to participate in such a project blatantly, as in literally running away from oneself, (a futile and often fatal project) I do so by manner of fiction, a favored method of embodiment. My name is not Aqsa Mahmood, Kadiza Sultana, Shamina Begum or Amira Abase. I have not left London on a flight to Turkey and then Syria. The word of the day is bride. I have not left Glasgow and do not go by Umm Layth, mother of the lion. The Metropolitan police said the young women were last seen leaving their homes before 8am. They traveled to Gatwick airport, where they boarded Turkish Airlines Flight TK1966 to Istanbul and landed at 6.40pm. The choice of returning home from Syria is often non-existent for those under the control of Islamic State. Anyone with any information about where they are should call the incident room via the freephone Anti-Terrorist Hotline number on 0800 789 321.
She was last seen wearing a long black jacket with a hood, a grey striped scarf, a grey jumper, and dark red trousers, and carrying a black holdall. Police said she is a British national and speaks English with a London accent. She also speaks Bengali. She was last seen tearing down her own missing posters. A woman on her wedding day, or just before or after the event. She was last seen laying down. Brahyd; French, as in to breed. She was last seen in San Francisco. She was the last planet I kissed. Also called a bar, leg, tie. A connection consisting of a thread or a number of threads for joining various solid parts of a design in needlepoint lace. She was last seen driving last Friday. Needlepoint trance, trace, tracery, trammeled. She was last seen in a little black dress. She was covered in bloody lyrics. An ornamental bonnet string. She was last seen with a man she met online. Bonnet string, bridle. She was last seen outside a Caribbean chain restaurant. Saint, Brigid. Saint. She was last seen wearing, in other words, recruits. She was last seen alive. She was last seen with a limp, in dark blue hood. She was last seen just after school on Monday. The parents of the groom will present the bride with a dress. She was last seen at the Double Decker bar, walking down the sidewalk alone. She was last seen checking herself out of a hospital. In the west, it is now customary to present the bride with a wedding ring. She was last seen on January third. A thread or loop that joins parts of a pattern. She was last seen arguing with her boyfriend. Literally, bridle. She was last based on a second book, in the 700 block of Barnaby Street wearing a black T-shirt. Betrothed, bruthiz, walking east on Seventh. Gothic cognate brups, daughter-in-law, borrowed from Medieval Latin, bruta, and Old French, bruy. Police dredging a canal near to where she was last seen, trying to find her mobile. Indo-European custom: the married woman went to live with her husband’s family. She was still alive at 6pm, bridelike. Some trace, bru, to cook brew, make broth. She was last seen at her house on the 7500 block of Plum Creek Drive. A bride in the bible. She was last seen wearing black thick-rimmed glasses, a black hijab, a light brown and black leopard-print scarf, a dark red jumper, black trousers, and a jacket. Brideless, she also speaks Bengali, Amharic. Give the bride away.
Laynie Browne is the author of eleven collections of poetry and two novels. Her most recent collection of poems is Scorpyn Odes (Kore Press, 2015). Other recent books include Lost Parkour Ps(alms) in two editions, one in English, and another in French, from Presses universitaires de Rouen et du Havré (2014). She is a 2014 Pew Fellow.