the name game
by Rex Butters

            for Gi(n)a
at the Bodhi Tree
sometime in the ’70s
I approach the desk
order a book
working clerk asks my name
for the form

“Rex,” I say
“Rick?” he squinting asks
“Rex, R-E-X”
“Rex? Rex?! LIke, Rex?”

“But that’s a dog’s name,”
he dissolves
laughing too hard to stand
murmuring behind me in line
people wonder at the delay
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,”
he says, “I could lose my job.”

“Now,” he says
professional again
pen to form
“what’s your last name?”

I take a deep breath
I can see it coming up Melrose

“Butters,” I say
“Sorry?” he replies
“Butters,” I patiently repeat.
“Butters, B-U-T-T-E-R-S”
‘Butters,’ like butter?
That’s really your name?”

“Oh my God!”
he says emphatically
leaning over the counter
“let me hug a guy
who’s had to go through life
as ‘Rex Butters.’”

Gone With the Wind
NBC movie broadcast
first time on tv
national nostalgia hype hysteria
next day
I stand
suited and tied
men’s shoe sales slow
in empty geriatric men’s store
brogues, boots, Bostonians
loafers, laces, patent leathers
shiny dead cow skin gleams
plaid commercial carpet
bleaching in fluorescent light
shelves dusted
sale table neat
late morning blood sugar low
clock hour hand stuck
late lunch late

well gray dressed middle aged woman
pensive browser
fingertip toe holds
light carmel buttery soft
Johnston Murphy slip-on

exams me
mannequin still standing
clock watch

she suddenly points
laughing at my green lapel’s name tag

“is that a joke?” she asks
delighted to be in on it

“sorry?” I say
not in on it at all

“you know,” she insists
purpose waning
“they showed Gone With the Wind
last night

isn’t ‘Rex Butters’ a joke
on ‘Rhett Butler?’”

“no ma’am,” my dry reply
“it’s my name.”

earnestly grabbing my hand
her eyes plead
she says and means, “oh, I’m so

click back to pensive
focused on anything
drawn to the door
she fakes shopping
for her lucky husband

many torn calendar pages later
Larkspur, California
restaurant table waiter interview
my prospective employer
under a teeming bad
soggy honeybun
greasy toupee
unnaturally colored
asks my name

“Rex,” I say
“Rick?” he queries
“Rex,” I say
“Russ?” he asks
“Rex,” I say, “R-E-X”
he writes it
looks up
“This is not a name,” he informs me sadly
“I’ve never heard of it.”
I beg his trust
I know what’s coming

“alright, and your last name?”
“Butters, B-U-T-T-E-R-S”
LIke, Butters,
like butter, the dairy product
in the walk-in?
This is not a name,”
he insists,
choking on laughter
this guy
with the more common and familiar
Fatollah Shirahmnia

IMAGE: Rex Butters

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Since 1976, longtime SoCal resident Rex Butters has published journalistic writings on sites and in magazines including BAM, Rapport, All About Jazz, Folk Works, the LA Free Press, and the Free Venice Beachhead. His poetry has appeared for over 25 years in such diverse journals as Caffeine, Brain Vomit, interbang, sic Vice and Verse, The Journal of Interdimensional Poetry, Yogi Times, Bad Haircut Quarterly, the Mas Tequila Review, and the Muse International Journal of Poetry. His anthology credits include Cost of Freedom, The Revolutionary Poets Brigade, The Best of San Diego Poetry 2015, and the forthcoming Writer’s Round Talk Show anthology. He writes and performs with the improvised music/funk/spoken word ensembles, Black Shoe Polish and Rag & Bone, and sings and reads with various projects.