for Reneé

The word [Ghazal] is of Arabic origin and means ‘talking to women’ (women in purdah, with all that that implies).
– Mimi Khalvati, Notes to The Meanest Flower

I flinch inside as you corroborate my name,
which is your name

now. You spell it out over the phone to a call centre
in India. Your new surname

as foreign to you as the phone-wallah
at the other end. Though the name

itself was born and bred in the Himalayas,
in Hindi, it’s long been reformed into English, into the name

you now pronounce
in your own, non-native, North American. It’s a name

you’ll freely admit you’d rather not have taken
but have taken all the same, exchanging one unchosen name

for another, uncasting yourself as Kohanim.
And yes, I was proud you agreed bear to my name,

to belong to my skin,
to share the cloth of my sisters’ maiden name.

But now, as you get used to an alias,
I recall my mother, who wouldn’t disown her married name,

but lived with it, assimilated, as my father’s
ex-wife, determined to keep the same last name

as me. You begin again: Dee – Oh – Eee – Jee – Ay – Arr
and I blush at the burden of our name