alex gallo-brown /WHATS YOUR NAME?

JulieFaith via Flickr

What’s Your Name?

Yesterday we were sitting
on a patch of grass
in mid-January, the city
already warm enough for us
to be wearing light coats.
I was reading to her
Chekhov aloud,
the story about the lady
and the little dog—
a love story, really—
when she asked me
why we were here.
I thought she was talking
about the city
when really she meant
alive inside these bodies
with the irritating problem
of consciousness to confront.
I didn’t know how
to answer her.
Instead, I read her Chekhov.
Later, I asked the city
its name.


On the block
where a white postwoman
presents a battered
package as though it is
her fault, her responsibility
to deliver it to me safely,
I imagine myself
alive and in communion
with all of the various people
I walk past on my way
to morning coffee:
black woman smoking
cigarette surprised
by my hello,
white woman hurrying
to car too busy
to attend to,
Latino men making
music I hear close
up and then
farther away
from the seclusion
of my own backyard.
And I have a backyard
now, my first
since childhood.
What joy it brings me
to watch a cat
with a plastic collar
climb through
neglected weeds.
But I am trying not
to think of them
that way—
the word neglected
and I let it
sit there—
I am trying
to be more open
with myself,
I was intent for
such a long time
on maintaining lines
that I can hardly
recall the shape
of now.


Alex Gallo-Brown is a writer living in Seattle. His poems and essays have appeared in publications that include Los Angeles Review of Books, Salon, The Stranger, Pacifica Literary Review, and Tahoma Literary Review. He holds an MA in Creative Writing from Georgia State University in Atlanta and is a contributing writer for City Arts magazine in Seattle.