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999 Names for Me


WARNING: There is very crude/explicit language in this because it is real language.

In My Room from the Bully Series

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At birth I gained
my very first name
from my Magyar grandfather
Stephen
Istvan
Pista
all three being
one and the same name
shortened down in affection
to Steve and Stevie,
Ist or even Pistie
I was
little one
wee one
sweet pea
wimpy.

Sticks and stones
can break my bones
and names can never hurt me.

As up I grew
I added bullhead
stronghead, stubborn mule
Sometimes simply
just another fool
Still at times a sweet-boy
good-kid, my mother’s little joy.

I became chubby, buddy
pig in the muddie
and reject retard slow gus
riding on the school bus
children hurling insults
just to be cruel
You look a little different
so you end up outside
looking inside
from the downside
kicked to the curbside.

By grade eight
and wearing glasses
over my eastern european
exotic almond eyes
I was four-eyes
blind-boy, clumsy oaf
chink and china-man
foreigner, aboriginal
yellow-fellow, chin-chan
learning to stand and fight
cause I wasn’t purely-white.

High school kicked it up
into the hormonal phase
of macho teenage noise
asshole, gay-boy, cock-sucker
chicken hawk, mother-fucker
you need your face smashed
ass-kicked, dick-cut
butt-fucked, you should be gassed.

Sticks and stones
can break your bones
and names can make you cry

Rejected by the cool kids
shunned by the jocks
I hung with the punks
and the party drunks
out by the funky blue-van
where I was accepted
included respected
labelled pot-head, weed-man
agent-orange, farm-boy, red-neck
while never ever doing a toke
or touching any funny stuff.

Still ethnically not blending
I was slanty-eyed, zipperhead,
half-breed, apple, buddhahead
redskin, yellowskin, mocha-blend
Squinty, tinker, twinkie
Having missed the racial mark
the insults headed north land
huskie-boy, sled-head, mukluk
dog-boy, Eskimo, igloo, nanook.

Sticks and stones
will break my bones
and names will truly scar you.

After high school was all over
and into the world of higher-learning
I was still mis-labelled
Fucking Skimo, slit-face, snow-blind
little lost ptarmigan, snowback
then things moved beyond
just how I kinda looked
bastard weakling dumb-ass suck-up
nerdy geekhead crossbred bithead
social retard gamer lamer
even called faggot
for writing all this poetry.

And the names still keep
accumulating like
unwanted re-gifts
seems I’m a fucking asshole
insensitive narcissist
aspergers autist failure
fatman lardass lazyboy
ultimate reject and so many more
but I think you get the score.

Sticks and stones
bruise deep – break bones
those wounds we heal
but names rend souls
pinprick black-holes
collapsing weighty gravity
never letting free
my true inner light
until it all implodes.

I selected this post to be featured on my blog’s page at Poetry Blogs.
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49 responses

  1. Not sure if this comes from your personal experience, but it is wonderful and I wish I hadn’t retired from teaching. This would make an awesome discussion poem for the high school kids I taught.

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    1. This is one of the few poems that contains a lot of biography. Most of what I write is word play – and yes I reference what I know even in those poems but they are more fiction.

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  2. I would like to know this one thing–who has not been bullied in some way or other–I know I was–this was a great but painful poem that most can identify with

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  3. Took me a while to realize what that comment referred to – that was part of a longer discussion with Pookie that took an uncomfortable turn since Pookie apparently knows me and I have no clue as to who they are/were 🙂
    Thanks Shelley

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  4. Almost made me cry.

    And you are not “nobody at all”. I think that is exactly what those bullies wanted you to think. Hugs.

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  5. Merlin, the most beautiful creations come when we can get out of our own way. That, is the Gift… and the Invitation.
    Namaste.

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  6. I’m wondering how to say, this is ‘lovely’? It seems like an inappropriate thing to say, doesn’t it? But what I continue to learn is that, where the scars are, is where the beauty and true character manifest. An open invitation to others for catharsis. That, in my opinion, is earning the title of Merlin. A true Alchemist.
    Actually, the poem and poetry (you) are exquisite.

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    1. I am humbled by your kind words. Thank you. This poem flowed freely from my heart to brain to keyboard. I said this earlier – and again re-reading this poem today – it seems like it was written by someone else… The memories are old and the wounds are long healed. Yet these “hard” life experiences are also what shape us and give us form. My experience with bullying is not unique nor was it unbearably cruel. I know others that have experienced worse including enduring physical pain. My 999 Names caused pain at the time – and now are the catalyst for beauty.

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    1. It was – mostly at the times it was happening. Not a unique experience. We all times we are excluded, pushes aside, expected to be other than what we are…
      Most of it was delivered without thought of impact –
      Sometimes it still comes back – but mostly that is just history of where I came from.
      Even if I say so myself – damn fine poem. I had not read it for a while. Seems like something someones else wrote…

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  7. Oh.I’m very late for this…never heard of you before… you just left a comment on my blog….this made me so angry…no one should be subjected to this humiliation….powerful poem and I am so sorry you did not have a friend like me when this was happening to you because believe me..it would not have been happening for long!

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  8. Pleased to meet you, Mr. Mumble!

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  9. Well I am Stephen Mumble – at least around these pages. 🙂
    Otherwise and outside of here I am just nobody at all

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  10. I like being mysterious! Plus now you have the fun of eyeballing everyone you run into, until you get bored anyway. Maybe I’m the secretary down the hall… (:

    I notice you took out all the incriminating details. (:

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    1. Well I do have my illusion of anonymity to maintain! Thin veil as it might be 🙂
      You are not the only one that wants to be mysterious. Though you are certainly more adept at keeping the mystery in place

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  11. Oh, I’m around now & then.

    If you ever get around to writing the ‘nice things you’ve been called’ version, as others suggest, I’d like to submit ‘Cutie Patootie’. 😉

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    1. Well aren’t you the sweet one!
      The trouble with writing a nice things I’ve been called is it gets a little gooey – which is good for s’mores and not so good for poetry 🙂

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      1. I’ve been called worse. 😉

        If anger can spur fine poetry, where the ugliness of thought is carried by the beauty of form, why not sentimentality? Admittedly, I haven’t read a lot of sentimental poetry that I thought was good (or any, to be honest), but that just means there’s room for innovation. You could have a whole branch of poetry named after you!

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      2. Yes indeed I could! Just think one day they could be speaking of that great literary wave: The Mumble Movement
        😀

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  12. Got my Internet up & working, & look what I stumbled across! If you had asked me before reading this, I’d have said I’d put that @#$ behind me years ago, & yet I feel my eyes narrowing & a snarl forming against the words, words that weren’t even the ones hurled at me… Apparently we never really get over it.

    I’ve never liked poetry much in English, but this is pretty darned good! I like the rhythm, and it certainly packs an emotional punch.

    For what it’s worth, I like ya, kiddo. And your peers might’ve given you grief over your eyes, but I think they’re pretty hot. 😉

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    1. Why thank you. Not often I get compliments on both my verse and my visage! Actually it is a first.

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    2. Ya know I have been racking my brains as to who Pookie might be…since at least you seem to know me. And it seems I am clueless. 🙂
      Which is pretty much my normal state of being on most things! I am sure I will see you around somewhere!

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  13. Powerful stuff with a great rhythm 🙂

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    1. Thanks for reading and letting me know.

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  14. How does “Poet” fit as a name? As a label?

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  15. you know…this touched me deeply…names can truly leave deep scars..just had to think about how god gave some people new names…like jacob for example which means liar he gave the name israel which means godwrestler and with the new name came healing and a new hope and destiny…sorry…my mind just wandered off…really like your poem merlin..and one of the names i would title you with would be poet…smiles

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    1. Thank Claudia. You are clearly a kind and thoughtful soul. I appreciate you stopping by and leaving your warm words.

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  16. Words are as powerful as bullets, they tear out your soul from first steps forward. This poem is not only a release but a battle cry to the unique, the eccentric, the intellectual, the genius, the disabled, the sensitive, the caretakers, the disenfranchised of the world. Moreover its form is as powerful as its words. The repetition and strengthening of the refrain reinforces the message, makes it more deliberate and more universal. The bullies are not named, but they’ve been called out because inherently written between the words and within the lines, you know and realize everyone, e v e r y s i n g l e p e r s o n who has ever lived has been hurt with words and can identify with this!

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    1. Your comment has left me rather short of words. Thank you for your kind words and insights. I really appreciate that you read my words so deeply and that you took the time to leave your thoughts for me to ponder.

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  17. This was powerful and brave. I appreciate your candor and applaud your will to be heard. So glad I read this. – Mosk

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    1. Considering you go by “ihatepoetry” I am completed flattered by your comment. 🙂
      Thank you for reading and commenting.

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  18. rosemary mint | Reply

    Very effective, painful piece. That is close to 999 names! These are my favorite parts:

    “I became chubby, buddy
    pig in the muddie”

    “You look a little different
    so you end up outside
    looking inside
    from the downside”

    “yellow-fellow, chin-chan
    learning to stand and fight
    cause I wasn’t purely-white”

    “redskin, yellowskin, mocha-blend
    Squinty, tinker, twinkie
    Having missed the racial mark”

    “social retard gamer lamer
    even called faggot
    for writing touching poetry”

    “but names rend souls
    pinprick black-holes
    collapsing weighty gravity”

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  19. heck yeah…its real…sucks that it happens…and that poeple do little about it…this hits…as it should…we need to wake up…in our homes and schools….

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    1. Thanks Brian – appreciate the visit and your comments. We need to remember that civilization starts with civility…

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  20. Wow. I’m no poet — I can’t comment on the structure or rhythm or anything, at least not intelligently — but my god, can you pack a punch. Your experience was so different from and yet so similar to my own in school. Damn.

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    1. It does have a bit of a kick to it! And I am finding out that many people had similar experiences in school. I do also have good memories from school – still it strikes me as somewhat troubling how easily humans can turn on each other over the smallest difference. Lord of the Flies? Glad to see more people stepping up and doing something about bullying and exclusion.

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  21. This poem is gonna take a lot of people back to school..

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  22. Great! from the first till the last it felt like a roller coaster ride through a fast-forward of ur life! I resonate most with that part shunned by the cool kids.. I guess that is what brought out the writer in me, if at all 😉

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  23. I like this very much. I’m sure this poem resonates with an awful lot of people.

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    1. Sadly I think it does resonate – had some rather interesting conversations with friends after posting this. Glad you stopped by for a visit 🙂

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  24. amazing piece – agree with unferrered, would like to hear the other 999 names as well, those that lift you up you gifted Merlin /\

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    1. Thank you for your kind words. I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. This poem did come together very well. Heck when I re-read it I even questioned if it was really something I wrote.

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  25. unfetteredbs | Reply

    well done Mr Merlin.. you are magnificent
    and now write a post which your inner light explodes forth

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  26. unfetteredbs | Reply

    I like this because your words and structure are so fecking powerful. You should submit this somewhere… and I dislike this because it is so painful

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    1. Thanks unfettered. It flowed really well despite being quite raw – I’m not happy with the closing yet. I think I need to let it set for a week. It was prompted by my saying to a friend “I’ve been called worse.” I’ve also been called better things and happy sweet names. So perhaps that needs to be hinted? It is the way of humans: we build communities to hold us and we build walls to keep us apart.

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      1. unfetteredbs

        so true–
        think about writing a whole contrasting piece on the positive side. this one works so well with the powerful emotion you have infused…don’t dilute the message.. but that is only my opinion.
        (those rat bastards)

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      2. Oh that could be really good. ‘My 999 other names’
        It at least gives me an idea to scribble away at and see what I can do 🙂

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    2. I think I improved the ending…at least it makes my inner rhythm feel more balanced. But then again I do have this underlying dis-chord

      Like

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