I attach no importance to names.
I learned to write my last name by copying
the tag my mother sewed into my coat
so I wouldn’t lose it. Such a long name.
So many letters. I have a name now—
but not the one I was born with. And
not the one I wrote on that pulpy paper
with its dot and dash blue lines. Instead
of a coat, what my mother lost was me.
I attach no importance to names—
In Paris, Jim Morrison dies of a heart attack in a bathtub.
Jim Morrison, born in Melbourne, Florida, 30 miles from where I sit thinking about Apollo launches and eating bowls of Lucky Charms. Thinking about moon rocks while watching a chameleon turn green, then brown, then bright green again. The future a round white blank in a black square sky, my life never-mind, my life forget-me-not, my life no-one-here-but-us-door-mice.
Jim Morrison, son of rear admiral George Stephen Morrison, commander of the U.S. naval forces in the Gulf of Tonkin when that incident-meets-lie lets Lyndon Johnson send more troops to Vietnam. People are strange when you’re a stranger. But for a dead-rock-god-poet, Paris finds room in Père Lachaise.
Me, I got a B in French class. I am never going home.
1972 (MCMLXXII) was a leap year starting on Saturday of the Gregorian calendar, the 1972nd year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 972nd year of the 2nd millennium, the 72nd year of the 20th century, and the 3rd year of the 1970s decade.
Within the context of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) it was the longest year ever, as two leap seconds were added during this 366-day year, an event which has not since been repeated.
My sister and I sat and watched for hours as the Israeli athletes were held hostage at the Munich Olympics. Even at sixteen, I knew it would end badly.
I knew that because we’d watched the war in TV every night I could remember.
Nixon was reelected and I suspect that my mother, life-long Democrat, woman who wept when Johnson said he would not run again, voted for him.
She believed him when he said he’d end the war. Or wanted to believe him.
The night that Nixon won, I dreamed they took my father off to fight in Vietnam.They were taking all the fathers, no matter where they came from, no matter what they did to earn living. In my dream, my father was an astronaut going off to war. In spite of everything, my mother sent us off to school. Don’t worry, she said, as she put us on the bus. Your father will come home a hero and we’ll be living on the moon.
Also Ezra Pound died at 87. Though I had no idea who he was and wouldn’t for many years.
Jesse Lee Kercheval’s collection America that Island off the coast of France won the Dorset Prize and is forthcoming from Tupelo Press. She is also a translator whose translations include The Invisible Bridge: Selected Poems of Circe Maia. She teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.