In Name Only by James Penha
Updated: Oct 1, 2022
In Eden, God granted our species great power
to share dominion and name all the creatures:
that familiarity might breed our
reverence for earth’s diverse vital features.
Since Bliss, this calling has failed to impede
a master’s contempt for beasts, no more than
for common nouns we entitle with need:
the homeless, wretched, poor, and the orphan.
My blink at small hands outstretched on this street
pulls blinds that untie, like twists of a knot,
oversight from overlook, smartly discrete
among objects: a sentence where I allot
the case for the foundling but no Proper Name.
Call a child beggar and I am to blame.
Previously published in Wired Art from Wired Hearts, 1999
Expat New Yorker James Penha (he/him) has lived for the past three decades in Indonesia. Nominated for Pushcart Prizes in fiction and poetry, his work is widely published in journals and anthologies. His newest chapbook of poems, American Daguerreotypes, is available for Kindle. His essays have appeared in The New York Daily News and The New York Times. Penha edits The New Verse News, an online journal of current-events poetry. Twitter: @JamesPenha