MY BABY SISTER
All summer they fought about her name:
Over the buzz of the air-conditioner,
On beach chairs watching fireworks,
That torrid August Sunday the nephew
Finally came to clear the Christmas lights
Vining through Mrs. Greer’s hemlocks.
What else did they have to fight about?
So much, really. Which is why they
Stood side-by-side at the head of our drive,
Watching that nephew calf-high in weeds,
Exchanging baby names like buckshot.
Mama preferred Biblical fare, “blend-in”
Names like Rachel and Sarah. But Papa
Wanted his daughter to get ahead in life,
As he’d put it: Who treats a Rachel like
An Antoinette or an Anastasia Victoria?
Besides, he’d already lost this battle twice.
My brother, who was three and an expert,
Suggested Eyelash and Maybe and Knob—
He had earlier dubbed our puppy Hat Fork
And his preschool’s gerbil Bucket. Who
Couldn’t share a laugh at knob? Knobelle.
Knobette. La Principessa Door-Knobina.
They bargained all the way to the hospital,
Crossing off names, until only one survived.
My sister’s. My grandmother shared it later,
In a whisper that crept along baseboards,
Hugged rafters. Places a name will go
When you don’t bring home a baby.