“The word [Ghazal] is of Arabic origin and means ‘talking to women’ (women in purdah, with all that that implies)” – Mimi Khalvati in her Notes to The Meanest Flower
I flinch inside as you corroborate my name,
which is your name
now. You spell it out over the phone to a call centre
in India. Your new surname
as foreign to you as the phone-wallah
at the other end. Though the name
itself was born and bred in the Himalayas,
in Hindi, it’s long been reformed into English, into the name
you now pronounce
in your own, non-native, North American. It’s a name
you’ll freely admit you’d rather not have taken
but have taken all the same, exchanging one unchosen name
for another, uncasting yourself as Kohanim.
And yes, I was proud you agreed to bear my name,
to belong to my skin,
to share the cloth of my sisters’ maiden name.
But now, as you get used to an alias, I recall
my mother, who wouldn’t disown her married name,
but lived with it, assimilated, as my father’s
ex-wife, determined to keep the same last name
as me. You begin again: Dee – Oh – Eee – Jee – Ay – Arr
and I blush at the burden of our name
Originally published in The Poetry Review.
Edward Doegar’s pamphlet For Now was published by clinic in 2017.
Edward will be reading on Saturday 4 November at a special Poetry School event at Poetry in Aldeburgh 2017 celebrating poet and tutor Mimi Khalvati. He will perform work alongside Mimi herself and two other former students, Hannah Lowe and Karen McCarthy-Woolf. For more information and tickets visit poetryinaldeburgh.org