“Xujaa, Guerrera, T’Qnna,” by Autumn Hayes

Aug 20th, 2011 | By | Category: Poetry

I want an X in my name
or a Q with no U, followed by Z
or maybe K
Not a snaggle-toothed-stepsister name, though,
simply smiling, six warts on its nose
a chipped, rusty ax behind its back
six scraggly-fine strands of hair on its head, dotted
with liver spots; no.
I want a name that sticks craws,
slays lions as handily as Romans,
clangs down throats,
a name that kicks teeth in
with invincible language so long dead
only ghosts know
to tremble:
a hoodoo-click-clack-war-whoop name
that evokes squawking parrots,
dances, drenches substitute teachers in apprehension
as if they were sloshing
through rainforest gator-water,
up to the thighs in anticipating eyes,
slightly battered, wiping away a sweat-silt crust,
armed with naught but a rawhide whip
          and a little green water bottle,
and they just heard the holler
of the wild
          in teeth and claws and fur flying and vines tightening—
and it was my name.


Autumn Hayes is a freelance writer, creative writing teacher, and poet; her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Defenestration, Southern Women’s Review, Cuento, trapeze magazine, and Jersey Devil Press. Born and raised in Houston, Texas, she has taught reading, writing, public speaking, math, drama, and vocational welding in Los Angeles, Houston, and the Mississippi Delta. She is currently back in her hometown, hard at work on almost everything in her life, especially welding.

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