Poetic License: ‘What’s Not In A Name’
(For José R. Pacheco)
They thought the name would do it.
“Let’s call him Joseph, not José,
the first Americano in the family,
he will speak and read and write in English,
he will be one of them.”
So after my home delivery,
as my father stood at my mother’s bedside
holding me in his arms,
they both said “Joseph” at once
when the doctor asked for the newborn’s name.
But never once in their entire lives
did they ever come close to calling me
by the name they thought would do it.
I was still “José” to them or “Joselito,”
“Pepe” or “Pepito,”
and even as the years passed
and their English improved,
and the first “Nelsons” and “Wilsons”
and “Shirleys” appeared in the family,
they still could not manage even one “Joe.”
However, in his ninety-fifth year of life
and sixty-fourth in this country,
as my father lay in Metropolitan Hospital,
having been found semi-delirious
and dehydrated on the floor
of his tiny apartment in Corsi Houses,
I stood at his bedside with an intern
who in trying to gather patient family data
asked me my first name:
“Joseph,” whispered my father proudly.