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I Stand and Speak Your Name Out Loud

When I was given the challenge of writing a poem for #5poets5parks, I visited Farnsworth Metropark and was struck by a few things. First was the incredible history still present in the buildings and structures. The massive Roche de Bout, were indigenous tribes held council, and the interurban bridge built upon it. This park is long and narrow and flowing, a liminal space, a transition. And the renaming from Waterville to Farnsworth. All of these were playing on my mind.

But they were joined by elements from my personal life. I have loved ones who are transgender or gender non-conforming, and I have seen how it hurts them to hear their old name. I've seen how their new names are their true selves.

And I lost a family member to suicide last year. Many of us have, either to suicide or overdose. With any such death, there's so much weight, so much guilt and confusion we are left with. It can be hard to remain focused on love.

We, all of us collectively and individually, have complicated pasts. Acknowledge those difficult truths and move forward. The poem I wrote intends to help with that. It's for anyone who needs to acknowledge a wrong, who wants to rejoice in a loved one's true name, or who needs to let someone go with love.

I Stand and Speak Your Name Out Loud

for the twelve tribes of the Ottawa

for Gavyn (2004-2023)

and for all we lost before we understood

From the base of Roche de Bout

to the crumbling edge

of the Interurban Bridge

built of stolen land upon its memories,

I acknowledge our history

and sing you slowly as a lullaby

to the Butler,

the Missionary

and Indian Islands.

I belt your name out with the vibrato

of Leopard Frogs serenading

commuters and kayaks,

the Common Map and Snapping Turtles.

I set my feet deep as Silver Maples,

as Honey Locust and Pin Oak

and chant your name to the warblers,

to the long-legged egrets,

to the gossiping gulls.

I whisper your name through the water

as it pools and rushes,

as it carries you in this echo,

down along the towpath, out

into the body of Ohio.

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