Patch of skin, paste made of bone, bits of cartilage in a jar. Around me a spiral of blue scrubs, a gurney spins, mask floats mid air. Somewhere above, I hear an incantation from the wizard of anesthesia: count backward from one hundred . . .
morphine dreams of lions licking flowers, voices not mine say rest, lie back.
Inside these foggy walls I’m three years old again, fearful that someone
is changing my name.
Coming back, I wake holding tight to a starched skirt begging please hold me, push the button, send me back down. I can’t move, can’t speak, can’t rise beyond this fluorescent pain. A warm black hand unlocks my fingers, calls me milady in an island voice, pushes the hair off my forehead. I fall past the pain, past all dreaming as I watch the silent drip of comfort in a small plastic bag at my side.
I was silent for three years as a child, when the bones were cut from my face. Three years of no mouth, a name I couldn’t say, a name she tried
to change. I didn’t know how to answer when mom called me other names, so I didn’t answer at all, spent my days riding wishes like horses, chanting in my missing voice . . .
give me bones in my face I told stars, told wells, told dandelions, told apple stems, twisting not for true love like my sisters. My true love’s name starts with B, he is bones in my face. In dreams he calls my real name, and I answer in a clear, steady voice.
I go to sleep thirty years later, and wake with wishes granted. This face is stronger now, filled with skin bone cartilage where before was nothing but voiceless air and the battle to name an absence. I say my name with bruised lips; the force of new bone makes me ache. I didn’t know the hardware of wishes would batter me, burn me so deep.
Dad hated my cancer, he gave it my name. Mom hated my cancer, fought it and me with a rage that burned her dry, left nothing but bone she couldn’t give and new names for me she thought I would could should want to say.
But this is my name, don’t call me any other. I couldn’t speak, she couldn’t listen, and we became mute. We became mute.
In this room, with new bone and my name on the chart at my feet, I wish we could talk. I would say, if you could hear, that I know you were with me. I know you carried me to birth, then through that hospital with my blood soaking your dress. But I have built this face with bone and skin from my own body. I have earned this name, and it is mine.
Name Day was written many years ago. It has an interesting history as a performance piece, and has been used as text and conceptually in dance, music and theater works.