The local guy named Little No Horse,
learned yesterday his mama named him
after a reservation in a work of fiction
and not some down on his luck ancestor.
This knowledge did not stop him
from attending baseball games with his glove to catch foul balls.
Nor did it cause him to cease smoking tobacco,
though he had cut back on his own to one or two cigarettes per day.
This knowledge did not start him drinking beer or other spirits.
He was aware of the family’s alcoholic gene
and remembered the yellow death-knell his father’s skin displayed
from cirrhosis of the liver.
He wished he could turn this knowledge into an umbrella
since it rained and he had a two mile walk home from the ballpark.
He decided not to give a damn about this naming.
Most people called him Bill, his chosen Catholic name being William,
since Little No Horse was a little awkward for their tongues.
copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney
The Last Report Of The Miracles At Little No Horse is a novel by Louise Erdrich. I read it in the 1990s and remember it as a good read.
Part of where this poem comes from is my musing on William Tecumseh Sherman and the fact he was born Tecumseh (his father was an admirer of the Pawnee leader Tecumseh) and the name William was added when Sherman was a young man at the insistence of his soon to by wife who wished him to be Catholic like she was.
Also, I thought about Tim Grair’s poem “What’s in a Name” which covers the coming out of the closet and betrayal of a character named Judas Hitler Jones by his father, who thought it would toughen him up.
I think, as humans, we count too much on shortcuts to find answers. This may be necessary for survival, but not so good in accepting people for who they are based on their actions, not labels or outward cues.
An expression I have heard about African American political candidates is “Is he (she) black enough?” Books and covers. Books and covers, man.
We all get named by our parents. In the old days people would get renamed upon reaching adulthood, but that practice fell away. Sometimes our parents make odd choices or choices for reasons that seem good at the moment. My grandfather named my father after his favorite continental congress member and inventor Ben Franklin. Margot Hemingway was name after a bottle of Château Margaux wine and changed the spelling of her name to match the wine upon learning the origin. If I remember right, I was named after my mom’s favorite childhood doll. And we have Johnny Cash’s song “A Boy Named Sue.“
Whatever your name is make it yours fully and completely. If you do not like your name, change it. If a name gets placed on you that is appropriate (I think of Hawkeye from Last of the Mohicans) live up to it.
Love & Light