For My Grandmother, Who Kept His Last Name

by Chrissy Martin


In the must of the DMV, do your eyes 
find the exits when they call your name? 
Do you ever forget your name has this

unsevered growth? Do you hear the part 
of you that is his and plan to brace your
body differently for fist or open hand?

You gave him a place to stay when 
his mother was violent and his father 
drowning. You say that by now this name

is part of you—does that scare you? 
Is it more of a coat or a spleen? A scab 
or a mouth? Do you worry one day

you will be curling your eyelashes 
in the mirror and catch whatever look
in his eye finally let you leave?

That you’ll chastise the grandkids 
and find the same click of the tongue, 
throat vibrato? When you’re scolding

yourself for burning the muffins 
or letting the mashed potatoes get chunky, 
what name does that small voice play?

The mother’s funeral he made you miss. 
Withheld keys, purse, money, permission, 
said, You need to stay with me right now.


God knows a name change is expensive. You’ll do it

next month when the air conditioner is up and working.

You’ll do it next spring when the cruiser stops shedding parts.

The grandkids are hungry and eggs just keep getting

more expensive. The scripture says separation is wrong

but maybe you found a small loophole: a missing passage

that says there’s an exception for men with a curdled heart;

says if you keep the name, God might just not notice.


When your husband led the congregation, the women 
awed at his love for you, the men hid their jealousy,

the children followed you down the aisle toward 
Sunday school. You taught them of humility, but

how pride is not always wicked. You helped. You honored. 
You sang the hymns and when you cried at the altar,

they said Look what God has done. When you 
cried at the altar, he put his hand on your back. When

you cried at the altar, he curled his fingers on the small 
bones of your shoulder and said you should be proud.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: