These Are Words that Go Together Well
by Sian Michelle Jones

I. First
My name is an actress.
It shaved its head and married Peter O’Toole.
Grew its teeth and toyed with kings.
Commonplace where it came from
and unpronounceable anywhere else —
it is a password, an encryption, a trick question.
Like a landmark from far away,
it is male or female, and which it is
depends on whether you read it in a salutation
or hear it mispronounced from my own mouth.

II. Middle
My name is a song in English and in French
that my mother sang while she nursed me.
You can say it both ways; I’ll answer.
It’s a Paul McCartney rhyme, a pickup line,
and also that moment when words come unexpectedly
together after standing so long apart.
Ma belle, it rings and rings.

III. Last
My name is bland, a pseudonym, an alias.
I like how it’s a place to hide,
and how grateful people are to hear it
after the exertion of other names,
because it presents no challenges except ubiquity.
By itself, it demands additional information,
which used to be an active noun
and is now a simple schoolyard letter.
It says who like an easy handshake,
but then it asks which
and with gleeful retrograde motion
I get to tell you all the rest,
the single little syllables that are mine,
the cuneiform beginning me.

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTOGRAPH: Taken at home, Maryland, May 2015.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sian Michelle Jones wrote her first name poem in elementary school. It was an acrostic, of course, and the first line was inevitably “Super,” because the poetry of youth is all about adjectives and exuberance. (Which is so different from now, how exactly?) Sian received her MFA from Mills College in 2004. Her work has appeared in Best New American Voices 2006, The Montucky Review, and The Cheat River Review.