National Geographic

Kevin Stein

To name a thing gives breath as smacking
a newborn’s bottom precedes that big inhale
and a lifetime’s crying over spilt milk,
as I’ve craved my great-grandfather’s name,
enthralled by the manly innuendo
of Everhard Stein.

Words to the unwise: Don’t christen
your daughter Kirsten unless you also like
Kristen, Kristie, and Katie mumbled by
the consonantally confused. Unless you’ll favor
her fervid late-night lectures how Madison,
Bailey, Alexandra, Belle, or for chrissake Jennifer
is infinitely preferable in the lunchline.

Everhard’s obit all-caps declaimed
touting the mum he’d named Hope’s Pink Blanket.
To name a thing is oddly Adamic—
all the hairy, feathered, scaly beasts
tagged by one of us, Adam’s exploits
trending on Twitter’s audience of two.

Amid the hormonal Eden of college Fridays,
I’d go by Dr. Strangelove, plotting conquest,
though by dawn I was Slim Pickens
riding the bomb solo through irony’s clouds.

Everhard, call me Hope’s Pinkest Blanket.

To name a thing is the province of mothers
and discoverers, serendipitous rhyme,
whose breast gives life Latinate and lactate.
It’s early for autumn mums, Everhard’s or otherwise,
but these nursery flowers stacked on concrete blocks
stock a welter I wish my eyes were as blue as,
my breath as floral, my best parts as risen crimson.

Master gardeners laud Gnat’s Hairy Armpit
and the benighted but oft-blooming
Reeks of Rotten Meat and Russian Imperialism,
its titular honesty a model for my colleagues
I’ll Damn Well Steal Your Swingline Stapler,
You Bet My Porn Downloads Crash the Server,
and The-Twin-Mirrored-Ambidextrous-Narcissist-
Who named God? And pre-Big Bang,
who named Naming, god above all gods?

Beneath the nursery’s flat-screen TV
and black plastic racks of pachysandra sprouts,
workers sidle idly to catch what havoc befalls
sled dogs chained to ice as a polar bear swims up
for a look-see on the National Geographic Special.

To name a thing can earn one’s living, branding
LG the sweat of one’s well-paid brow.

Turns out, the bear Norse poets dubbed Seals’ Dread,
Whale’s Bane, and Lonely Sailor of Icy Floes
renamed herself Chained-to-Melting-Ice-by-Climate-Change.
So canines and urus maritimus compatriot-cuddle,
nibbling each other’s furry ears. Let’s baptize them
Sweet Sisterhood of the Soon Gone, disciples
of the dyslexic d-o-g/g-o-d anagram origin myth
whose piety blushes us choke-collaring petunias
and verdant cash, leashed in line to pay the cost
of what we love to call beauty though likely
not enough to save it. Hope’s Pink Blanket?
Our strange love pins the Monarch butterfly
under glass and renames it Extinct.

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