What's in a Name?

(This is a poem I wrote about the portable Vietnam Wall when it came to
Tarentum in 1992)

WHAT'S IN A NAME?

It appears typed on a plastic band

wrapped around a newborn's wrist

as a mother twirls it and smiles.

It's put on first birthday,

first Christmas presents

and all the ones to follow.

It takes shape when small fingers

use yellow pencils

and letters of the alphabet

trying to define who they are

while the teacher looks over their shoulder.

It follows you through

neighborhood pranks under summer sun

and sled-riding as snow sticks to red cheeks.

It's your mother calling you to dinner

and breaking up a brick-street game

of hide and seek.

It's on report cards, honor rolls.

Sometimes it's left off the list

because you didn't make the team.

It's what your friends yell

before you get a nickname.

It's your nervous hand as you fill

out your driver's license application.

It's on your diploma - etched in gold -

It's there under the American flag

when you register for the draft.

It's scratched on the bottom of letters

sent from stick-to-your-skin Vietnam

to girlfriends in L.A. barrios, Midwest farms,

rusting steel towns and N.Y. ghettos

as you pretend everything's OK

and you're not afraid.

It's written in a million places

to mark where you've been.

It's on death certificates that fall

through mail slots across America.

It ends up on a black wall

next to the names of thousands

of other soldiers whose souls

cry for recognition

while loved ones trace

each letter slowly

as their shadows merge

in the wall

and a single rose falls

in slow motion

toward the earth.

Howard George Bronder
Natrona Heights, PA