Let’s Do Name Poems
For some reason or another, my name has never been the easiest to spell, pronounce, or understand. Every September, the first day of class would go something like this:
Teacher: How do you say your name?
Me: No, C-A-L–L-I-E
Teacher: Not Kelly, huh?
Me, with a courtesy laugh: Haha. No, not Kelly.
Teacher: Is it short for anything?
This was the question that made me the most angry — as if my name were not enough, as if there were something missing from me that would make more sense once that piece was found.
Indeed “Callie” is often a shortened form of “Callesta,” but that is not my name. My mom liked “Callie,” and so Callie Rebekah I am.
“Callie” is Greek, as is “Callesta,” and both mean “beautiful,” a description that makes me nervous. That’s simply too much pressure. “Callie,” it turns out, is also a nickname for “Caroline,” so maybe I shouldn’t have been too hard on my teachers for always asking me if I meant “Carrie.”
Those with the name “Callesta” apparently thrive on and seem to need verbal expression. They crave it, and if they aren’t receiving words or giving them away, they suffer. I learned that the Callestas of the world are highly sensitive and emotional. They get offended easily, but they work hard to not show it. Many Callestas come across as aloof or, if they’re overcompensating for hurt feelings, overly cheerful.
I probably could’ve been more understanding of my teachers. Maybe asking if my name was short for anything was an offer to help pull and use what was yearning to come out. Maybe their curiosity about my name was an invitation telling me I was enough, but I was also safe if I wanted to find out more.
Recently I learned of the Hindu goddess Kali, who is known for bringing death (and kind of gruesome death at that). Her purpose, though, is to destroy what is evil. In Grammar For A Full Life: How the Ways We Shape A Sentence Can Limit or Enlarge Us, Lawrence Weinstein explains that when we call upon Kali, we are welcoming “that fearsome deity to invade one’s spirit or soul and destroy the negative forms of ego to be found there.”
Maybe it’s because of Callesta and her desires for expression, but I find it poetically ironic to meet Kali and her power in a book that’s essentially about how to best express yourself and help others do the same. I know palpably the internal battle to shape a memory, an idea, an opinion, a feeling, an experience into story form in order to share it so that I don’t have to carry it alone.
It takes an army of Callies — in all their shapes and forms — to pull that off.
This week, do some research on your name and write a poem about it.
Thanks to everyone who participated in last week’s poetry prompt. Here’s one from Rick Maxson we enjoyed:
The Shirt Evaporates
My beloved work shirt—
blue cotton, long sleeves,
mostly rolled. The first
to go, the elbows, thin
then thinner. Where I lean,
left arm, it split at last.
The threads began there
to disappear, as though
losing a kind of mass
through the opening.
It clung to me the way
silk clings, pulled
and sagged at its buttons
until they popped,
rain wet, motion-strained,
finishing like a ragged
flower opening in the wind.
Browse more poetry prompts
If you have ever been in 8th grade, fallen in love, had a best friend, or loved reading, you will love this book. As the mother of an 8th grader, my other genuine hope is that my son will one day have a teacher as gifted as Callie.