“Aloysia Is Not American” by Olivia Ellis

Olivia Ellis



1920 Long Beach, California

“Aloysia is not American,”
said the orphanage intake nun,

“Eliza will be your name.
Stitch it on all your clothes.”

The little girl looked down. Her father said
good-bye in Czech and let go of her hand.

He walked out through the wide French doors,
down garden paths to his Model-T Ford.

They took the girl down dark corridors
and locked her in the infirmary,

a quarantine that lasted fourteen days.
The room was high ceilinged and cold.

She embroidered Eliza on all her clothes.



1924 Clovis, California

“Eliza is not American,”
the school district secretary said,

“Eloise will be your name.
Put that on your papers instead.”

She did. It was even how
her obituary read.

from Rattle #8, Winter 1997


Olivia Ellis: “I am a photographer/writer who lives on a small farm in Claremont, California. I began writing poetry in 1948 and have taught creative writing since 1963. My doctorate was a ten-year study on the effects of creative writing on dyslexic students.”

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