The Naming of Things

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Aster(ix)’s very own, Adriana E. Ramirez, recently gave a talk for TEDxHouston. Here you will find  the poem she recites during the second half of her performance. She wanted you, faithful readers, to know that due to sheer nerves and time issues, she did not perform the poem exactly as it is written. Enjoy!]



When I was four years old,
The night’s shadows often
Pulled me from my bed to the next room,
Where my brother fought them for me.

That one, he’d say, that one looks like a bent old tree.
He’s Mister Tree. And that one, that one looks like He-man.
And that one—that one is Optimus Prime.

I liked naming things. I still do.
I name characters in fictions I will never write.
Cornelius. Henrietta, Tlacotlaltepetlel
I name clouds and stars. I love the names some already have.
Sirius, Stratocumulous, Ursa

Viruses and bacteria, despots and revolutionaries,
Staphylococcus, Ebola, Idi Amin,
the scientific names of extinct animals,
Raphus cucullatus (that’s the dodo bird),
I love the names of streets and old men.
Mellon Terrace, Humphrey McIntlock

My boyfriends freak when I name our potential children.
As do friends, colleagues, and
strangers I meet in line at the post office.

I have names for all my impossible offspring
If I had a baby with the State Of Texas,
I’d name him Wesley.
I think Wesley Texas has a nice ring to it.



My brother is not around anymore,
I like to name the reasons why
Fate and Circumstance.

But I name him Loss instead.
I’ve lost many things.
I name that Abandonment, Carelessness, and Fear.
I name long nights Loneliness and sad nights Pity.

I name the bags under my eyes
and the curve of my belly: Insecurity.
I name myself Lazy, Scared, and Afraid.

I have written the names in
this imaginary baptismal book
I carry around my neck—Albatross.
I have bathed the letters in holy water,
weighed each consonant, and called myself
The Namer of Things.

Yet’s easy to see Bleak and Downtrodden.
So I’ve decided to prove
that the pages of my book look more
a Etch-a-sketch than stone,
that I can rename those suckers.

Uncertainty can become Promise.
Abandonment can be called Transition.
Pity can be called Self-Reflection,
Insecurity? Simply an Abundance of
Raw Material from which I get to sculpt myself anew.
Scared is also Growth. Fear [is] Living, and Loneliness [is] Learning

I want to rename friends
Life Support Machines,
but that sounds cold and sterile,
so I will rename them Mateys,
because they mostly look like pirates.

I want to take the space in my heart
where Loss lives and rename it Memories.
Call it… The Story of Me.

I want to name my heartaches after hurricanes.
This is Heartache Nimrod.
Level 5 Idiot.

No, I want to call it Metaphor.
to know it is a bridge,
a muscle that links two ideas,
ideas like me, like you, and redefines them as us.

I want to get mixed up in that Metaphor.
And emerge re-sampled,
re-catalogued, re-vamped.

My brother told me names were powerful.
and should be used wisely.
That was all there was to it.
to let go of everything that was wrong.

Tonight, I rename myself Ambition.
I rechristen y’all Daydreamers and Lovers
and Wishers and Alive.
If I had a baby with the Future,
I’d name her Adventure.
I’d name her Possibility.
I would name her after all of us.