Forbes and Fifth

Call Me Laura

The professor said,

Let me call you 
by your name: Lou,
instead of anything else
from a book on the shelves.

I didn’t know if I could refuse.

I came to this continent just a few weeks ago.
I live in a community where no one looks like me,
nor anyone speaks my language.
I am the alien in my classroom.
The plane which I was on taxied off into the sky,
flew through layers of clouds, penetrated stratus,
altocumulus, cirrus, almost reached the heavens—
then I fell, into this land, this campus,
where I sat in this classroom, witnessing my name being determined.
But professor, please note:

No one has ever called me Lou.
My name is Song Lou, and it is not the same with just Lou.
Not even my parents address me without my last name,
so neither should you.
And America is not so friendly when
I tell her my name in my mother tongue.
“Loo!” she’ll say, and I’ll ask “who?”
“You!” “Who?” “Loo!” “What?” “You!”
And I realize people are saying my name in
some ways they think funny but I find fuming.
The name has put a different label on me
that denies me Greek life, auditions, part-time jobs,
and the rightfulness to love your language,
because my name is not Greek.

But I like sororities too, and soprano solos during
musicals, and making coffee in Starbucks,
and reading Shakespeare and Sedaris and Stephen Hawking.
I guess my name makes me look more different than
I already am, but my name is not that
little piece of paper you throw away
after you’ve opened the fortune cookie
after you’ve finished your General Tso’s Chicken.
I am not that different from you, professor,
even though you’re named George T. Jefferson Jr.
I don’t know more about you than your name,
and you don’t know more about me than mine.

So call me 宋潞 or
call me Laura.

Credit: I would like to thank my high school alumna, Laura, for the inspiration of this poem, and her generosity of letting me use her name in this poem.

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Volume 9, Fall 2016