for teens, by teens

Canvas Teen Literary Journal is published quarterly in print, ebook, web, video, and audio formats.

That Which We Call

Eileen Huang

My parents say they stuck withered
fingers through the pages of a baby name pamphlet, past
Ariels and Bridgets and Charlottes lined up
against white paper like tin soldiers
on a hot day, flipping through pen-carved pages
only to find:

                  two syllables; meaning “light,”, Old French
                  for aveline, bittersweet hazelnut,

tinged with Romanticism and Gaelic lore of
red-haired maidens. Criteria
which my skewed eyelids can
never meet. I tell them it was a poor
attempt to recreate Dadaism, that Duchamp
will never spring back from moist earth
to pat them on their backs for serendipity, but they tell me,

                two syllables; derived from ‘Ελενη,
Celtic-raised goddess of golden eclipses, the lantern
bringing hungry miners back to day—but I am not the sun, not
the slant of moon, not a cradle for children at night. As if this is a connotation
I should be proud of,

                 two syllables; Irish adaptation of “Helen,”,
the kind of firm peasant stock, the Trojan queen—
my hands are not
calloused with labor, my eyes not wrinkled
in good nature, crimson-kissed arms not plump enough to knead strong dough
in breeches. I am not
your goddess, your yawning deity. My own name is never

tight enough to fit into a definition
but never loose enough to find its own. Soldiers do not call for
me across oceans,

sailors do not hear me in their ears,
sirens dragging them beneath pearl-tinged tides. Au revoir,
Au revoir,
Helen. All I know
is that I will never taste

the snap of a hundred arrows,
never hear the sails of a thousand ships

in my name.

© Canvas Literary Journal 2016
Writers & Books
Rochester, NY