Names

by Mary Jean Chan

I am trying to talk about you without
mentioning your name, so I say: we
went to see a film last night, meaning

you and I, or she treats me very well,
as in, you love me, or I’m going out
for Indian tonight, implying a candle-

lit dinner for two. It isn’t always easy
keeping your name sheltered from my
mother’s ears, but I try and try because

it keeps me from hearing that twist and
drop of her mouth – the way I try not to
imagine her standing next to the kitchen

sink at midnight – hungry for food or love,
though I know she shall pilgrimage to that
sacred spot over and over, the way the owl

never forgets it can see its prey best in the
dark. I have now learnt to name my loves
sparingly. You know this, don’t you, how

your name will never leave my mother’s
lips? I want to apologise. You do know
how much I want you – us – to survive?