» Poetry

Poems about What We Call Things

First Name

My mother calls my name with three

short a‘s tangled in roots of dandelions.


Gold tufts that grow no matter who tries

to pull them up. These a‘s hide in the black


crescent of dirt under my nails and swallow

my s’s when my young tongue is learning


how to say my name. My grandmother calls me

to her kitchen stool with three glass-blown


a‘s perched on my vertebrae: all feather, royal

red stretching a thread the length of my spine,


drawing me up tall and narrow. These a’s

are helium on the roof of her mouth. She


inspects my nails and scrubs the moons clean.



Those ducks in the baseball field are plastics bags.


The caterpillar

on the window frame

is chipped paint.


That old maple tree

melting through chain link

is your neighbor’s


outstretched hand.

The alarmed flight

of sandhill cranes


is your window A/C unit.

The man thrown

into the street


is a stop sign

swept in headlights.

You are not waiting


alone at the bus stop

is an oak tree.

A raccoon curls


into the storm grate.

You uncross your arms.

The crow looks up


from his preening.

The man blossoms

in your chest


and before you shout

he does not step off the curb

into the green light.



Maiden Name

When I marry, I lose half the syllables

in my last name—a decision to sell


the dining table in a yard sale

because of who it reminds me of and not


because it isn’t sturdy. Unmoored

my signature sinks below the line


on my grocery store receipts

and cuts the paper dolls holding hands


at the wrist. None of us knew the West

Virginia tobacco farmer whose name


we’ve practiced. We hardly know each other,

but when I had all my syllables we appeared


like sisters. You can see we all have the same

square hands, are missing the same teeth.


I crowd documents with various combinations—

the given, sold, and stolen names—as if lifted


from the shelves of an airport gift shop.


Alessandra Simmons

Alessandra Simmons is a poetry editor for cream city review and English PhD candidate at UW Milwaukee. She has poems published in WomenArts Quarterly, Rabbit Catastrophe, Hawaii Pacific Review, Limestone, and other journals. Her current obsessions are ringneck snakes and pawpaw trees. She interviews working writers on her blog, alessandrasimmons.com.