My Name
by Shahé Mankerian

To the American ear
Shahé is a mistake.
It’s a crazy consonant
malfunction, alphabetic
disorder. The boys at Starbucks
want to relabel me: “Shane,
your coffee’s ready!”
“Sean, non-fat latte, extra foam.”
It’s no use correcting them,
because in their world I am
wrong and they’re right.
In their world Armenian is
a typo, it should be American.
Computers often recognize me
as a verb: Shake, shave, share-
Depends who wants to play
Scrabble with me that day.
My name is Shahé;
Shale sounds nice,
but it’s not my name.
In Turkish, “Shash” means
cross-eyed peasant.
It’s not my name.
Shat is the past
tense of shit.
It’s not my name.
Shawe almost sounds
like a playwright.
Shaqe sounds like a basketball player.
not my name.
My name is Shahé.
It has a powerful connotation of the Shah,
and a simple “héh” like a whisper,
like a sigh on a cold winter day,
like an end of a poem.

PHOTOGRAPH: Shahé Mankerian.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Unfortunately, in America, names have to be palatable, ordinary, and recognizable. Immigrants often feel guilty for having peculiar names. Over the years, I’ve noticed my friends change their beautiful Armenian names to something as common as Roger and Mary. I never felt the urge or the guilt. I wanted my teachers, baristas, and police officers to sweat before they read or heard my name. I enjoyed seeing the beads of sweat before they pronounced my name. My name is not Shane. It is Shahé.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shahé Mankerian’s most recent manuscript, History of Forgetfulness, has been a finalist at four prestigious competitions: the 2013 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Competition, the 2013 Bibby First Book Competition, the Quercus Review Press, Fall Poetry Book Award, 2013, and the 2014 White Pine Press Poetry Prize. His poems have appeared in Mizna.