I see and hear it so rarely nowadays,
I tend to forget.
I am not that old, but I can remember
When names meant something.
You were Johnny or Kate in school,
Not an ID code to hide your other code
From identity thieves.
Your employer actually knew
You existed rather than coming across
Your number in an audit file.
When you visited a business,
The salesperson, banker, or repairman
Actually looked interested in knowing
Who you were.
If you wrote to a politician with a
Question or comment, you would get
An actual answer and your last name
We might ask if children should be
Given names anymore with this phenomena
In mind. Maybe I should blaze
The future with two daughters
Of my own:
‘Good morning, 438167-25.’
‘Where’s 3685-1247?’ (That’s
her younger sister – notice where the dash
‘She’s helping 57591208-3
put on her necklace.’
Or I can assign them to HTML tags
Or just call them A and B.
Pardon my sarcasm, but these are
Dire times. I want my name back.
Everyone wants his or her identity back.
At this rate, even the termites
Will feel selfless and soulless.
But there is no one yet to stop
The madness. And I find in the mail
Who I truly am:
(I’d state my bank account number and SSN,
but you never know who’s listening.)
Can’t anyone see
That I’m Paul-John Ramos,
With a love of Stravinsky, vanilla ice cream,
And Manchester United?
Doubtful with the CPUs blipping
And pulsing, our hearts in a non-human,
Incoherent wave of binary freakdom.
And now, we hope upon the future.
To Mishima on the Day He Died
No one could turn a phrase or spill waves
Like you could, but you are now
Out of place.
Your sword shines brilliantly,
Your innards, once conveyer of your thoughts,
Are bathed in the marrow of beauty;
That stomach, after all, once held saki
In gay bars -
But, dear Sage,
Your ideas have become You
And You have been overtaken by automobiles,
Radio, the stock market, and baseball.
Ode to the fatherland,
The great warriors who lurked in thickets -
Now stashing yen as Toyota dealers
And pumping gas on the freeways to Osaka.
About the poet…
Paul-John Ramos’ recent publications include Bumbershoot, Hobble Creek Review, Atticus Review, and Mayday. He was also a finalist of the 2008 Black Lawrence Press Poetry Chapbook Competition.