[ToC]

 

TÊN TÔI LÀ...

Jenna Le

My Vietnamese name's Trâm.
The word is short and pudgy like a thumb,
a man's thumb, pressed against a childish mouth                               
that wants to bawl out but is stanched by fear.

The monosyllable means "clasp" or "brooch"
in my forebears' tongue, but to a Latin speaker
the term for "clasp" or "brooch" is fibula.
(I fractured mine, once, biking on cracked tar...)

"What should I name the Vietnamese character
in my book?" a friend once asked me. "Trâm?" I offered.
"I meant a pretty name," she said. I shattered.

 

 

 

 

__

The trivia fact about the etymology of the word "fibula," which was the seed of this poem, was generously shared with me by a professional colleague—a fellow radiologist and fellow New York Times crossword aficionado—who had discovered the fact in the course of tussling with the Sunday puzzle.