(Our) Names

A conversation with the poet Sandra Cisneros using lines from her biography and writings

 

Lydia:

In English my name means hope,

expectance.

But in Spanish it means outcast.

In Spanish it means outcast.

In Spanish it means Americana.

It is the Sunday morning stories I hear about a woman named Lydia and a man name Jose

who came together and made nine beautiful Mexican children.

One of them,

named Dolores,

gave birth

to an American child. Me.

Lydia.

 

It’s funny how the name Lydia is both Mexican and American.

Something to be proud of, something worth hiding. It goes

back and forth from being responsible, to losing your way.

 

I inherited my name

from my grandmother.

They say she did mean things.

For that reason I am afraid of who I will become.

Does having the name Lydia mean I will make others hopeless and afraid?

Did they name me Lydia because on my birthday I left my mother hopeless and afraid?

Am I Lydia because I have no hope and I’m afraid?

 

Sandra:

I was born in Chicago, Illinois.

1945.

I grew up in Mexico and Chicago

with six brothers.

Yeah, there were six males in my family.

My father was proud of them and then

there was me.

 

Lydia:

My mother always talks

about what to do

to be a woman.

Maybe that’s why she named me after my grandmother.

Maybe she wanted me to be bold enough

to be a woman.

 

Sandra: 

At first I didn’t know rather I should write

short stories or poetry books

but then I realized I could do both.

I could write a short story

in a poetic way

but there was just one problem…

I was

 

Both:

afraid of my own name

 

Sandra:

They say my name funny as if the syllables were made out of tin

and hurt the roof of your mouth.

 

Lydia:

He says when he hears Lydia

he thinks of beauty beyond comprehension.

Fearless but shy,

sweet and adorable,

passionate,

loving.

 

Both:

I guess my name isn’t so bad to have.

 

Sandra:

Even if I baptize myself with a different name,

I would still be

 

Both:

Me.

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