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Good evening, it’s Amaya Engleking here tending bar and I want to know before we sit around all night guzzling Oktoberfest lager and waxing poetic about leaves, tell me: What’s your name?

I’m in the season of life in which I have several lists of potential baby names and have spent countless sleepless nights trying to come up with the most melodic and meaningful pair of names to name an unborn child. I know I’m not alone when I say we protectors of the next generation put a lot of care and consideration into the task of naming someone, even a pet! We hope that our progeny (or precious creatures) will live up to their names, or perhaps even more accurately, the essences of the names will define their characters. In China, many families will even consult experts on Taoist cosmology and the classic, I Ching, to assure their babies are named according to their destinies.

My own first name carries various origins and meanings from around the globe. Am I living up to my destiny?
Japanese = ‘night rain’
Sanskrit = ‘without illusion’
Hopi = ‘dispeller of evil’
Basque = ‘the end’
I like to have a good cry under the stars every so often, does that count?

Let’s look at Walt Whitman. Walter means ‘warrior.’ (It’s astounding how many traditionally male names are derived from a language’s word for ‘warrior’ or ‘ruler.’ Do parents really want that ferocity and tyranny for their sons or is it more of a warrior-against-your-inner-demons or ruler-of-your-own-ego-and-temptations kind of a hope?) Anyway, I’m inspired by Whitman’s take on the warrior:

O maidens and young men I love and that love me,
What you ask of my days those the strangest and sudden your talking recalls,
Soldier alert I arrive after a long march cover’d with sweat and dust,
In the nick of time I come, plunge in the fight, loudly shout in the rush of successful charge,
Enter the captur’d works—yet lo, like a swift running river they fade,
Pass and are gone they fade—I dwell not on soldiers’ perils or soldiers’ joys,
(Both I remember well—many of the
hardships, few the joys, yet I was content.)

But in silence, in dreams’ projections,
While the world of gain and appearance and mirth goes on,
So soon what is over forgotten, and waves wash the imprints off the sand,
With hinged knees returning I enter the doors, (while for you up there,
Whoever you are, follow without noise and be of strong heart.)

Bearing the bandages, water and sponge,
Straight and swift to my wounded I go,
Where they lie on the ground after the battle brought in,
Where their priceless blood reddens the grass, the ground,
Or to the rows of the hospital tent, or under the roof’d hospital,
To the long rows of cots up and down each side I return,
To each and all one after another I draw near, not one do I miss,

An attendant follows holding a tray, he carries a refuse pail,
Soon to be fill’d with clotted rags and blood, emptied, and fill’d again.

I onward go, I stop,
With hinged knees and steady hand to dress wounds,
I am firm with each, the pangs are sharp yet unavoidable,
One turns to me his appealing eyes—poor boy! I never knew you,
Yet I think I could not refuse this moment to die for you, if that would save you.

From ‘The Wound-Dresser’

And then there’s Margaret Walker with the most perfect surname for us contemplatives.

Traveller take heed for journeys undertaken in the dark of the year. Go in the bright blaze of Autumn’s equinox.
 Carry protection against ravages of a sun-robber, a vandal,
 a thief. Cross no bright expanse of water in the full of the
 moon. Choose no dangerous summer nights;
 no heavy tempting hours of spring;
 October journeys are safest, brightest, and best.

From ‘October Journey’

So tonight let’s write poetry about the meaning of our names. Look at your given name, a chosen alias, a middle name, family name, or maiden name and write an open-form poem of any length about it’s meaning. You don’t have to say what the name is but you’re free to do so in a subscript. I want to see more of an imaginative poem about the warrior (if you are a Walter or most males:) the one who walks (if you are Margaret Walker) or in my poem, say, the apocalypse. Just have fun with this and look up multiple origins to maybe learn something new about yourself.

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