“In Her Name” by Deborah Ketai

Deborah Ketai


No one, not even God, was fully souled
before being Named. The oldest name was
breath: aah first, then breathed back
in, through her ears, her name
speckled through the breezing,
sounding the depths, no longer deaf
to soul and self.
So in and out and in and out again 
the name begat The Names.
But after seven days or billions of years,
after 40 days, 40 years,
two temples, many prophets, and one carpenter,
after empires and bloodbaths and plagues
and a litany of everyday complaints, everyone forgot,
even God. 
We are not truly known or touched or reached 
until someone calls us by our name.
Say my name, God pleads, say my name.
What is it like to lose your name? God knows.
Like my great-grandmother
whom no one had called Rebecca for decades before she died.
She answered to Mrs. Newman or Mom or Grandma.
How did she think of herself?
“Rebecca” slowly faded. The aah, first to come,
was also the last to go, like the wicked witch
in the Wizard of Oz. That’s why witches need familiars:
no family or friends to remember their name.
Not invoked or evoked, not provocative, not vocative at all, 
not even the old bozhe moi, bozhe moi,
their voices, souls, breath, names, stolen by time.
Golosa, dushy, dykhaniya, imeni, vremya ukralo.

from Rattle #79, Spring 2023


Deborah Ketai: “I believe that our given names help forge our identities. They come into being with us, but often lose currency as we age. So what happens—to humans or to God—when names fade into oblivion? Let’s continue to acknowledge each other completely, even as we age.”

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