Advertisement

Hot Tin Roof: On forgetting names


Hot Tin Roof
Hot Tin Roof is a program to showcase current literary work produced in Iowa City. The series is organized and juried by representatives of three Iowa City-based cultural advocacy organizations: The Englert Theatre, Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature and Little Village magazine.
By Lisa K. Roberts

My grandmother called me Vicki Lisa,
my sister Lisa Vicki, as if she had to
trip first on the wrong name
to land on the right one.  She called
the seafood joint where Vicki worked
Green Lobster, naming a place where
you wouldn’t want to eat.
She hated the name Pauline,
wished people would call her
the name hidden in her middle —  Louise —
which I did on envelopes of letters I wrote
and sometimes remembered to send.
My mother tried to forget her name
three times, her marriages like christenings,
Stanford to Rogers to Roberts to Wilson,
and even baptized herself Melissa Person
when she unfolded our beat-up card table
in a back corner of the Feminist Bookstore,
flung a cranberry bed sheet over it
and wrote astrological charts
for women named Winsome and Strawberry.
This all happened in Lansing, Michigan,
a fact that has not helped me recall
the names of state capitals.
At Post Oak Elementary, in the sixties,
we wrote lots of groovy stories
but no one ever bothered to teach us
the capitals, or give us that catchy song
with eighth notes and a key change
we could take all the way to our nursing homes,
where we’d circle wheelchairs and sing it,
synapses snapping Pierre, South Dakota
before we finished up with Jesus Loves Me
and Home on the Range.   The only capital
we’d ever need, apparently, was
Lansing, Michigan, the one we lived in,
a town surrounded by towns with Indian names
like Onondaga, Okemos,
Shiawasee, that settler’s stole
to help them forget.  I once tried to forget
my father’s name.   At eleven, I wanted to be Lisa
Casteel — a boy I liked was named “Castillo” —
but still I’m stuck with Roberts:
unthinkable that my mother’s daughter would take
another man’s name as her own.
Near the end, when I visited my grandmother
at the Protestant Home in Milwaukee,
I could see in her milky eyes
I made the shape of someone she used to love,
but my name?  Forgotten
along with the names of all other persons,
places and things of this world.
Like Eden before Adam.
Like Eden before Eden.

Lisa K. Roberts works as a teaching-writer with the Iowa Youth Writing Project and as the editor of Iowa City Poetry.  Her poems have appeared in Plainsongs, Poetry in Public, The Daily Palette, and The Untidy Season: An Anthology of Nebraska Women Poets, and she has performed at Strange Cage, VoiceBox, and Was the Word.


Thoughts? Tips? A cute picture of a dog? Share them with LV » editor@littlevillagemag.com

Advertisement

Advertisement

Summer Programs 2020

Get 150+ local restaurants delivered to your door in the Iowa City & Cedar Rapids areas!

The Future is Unwritten

You look to Little Village for today’s stories. Your sustaining support will help us write tomorrow’s.

Regular

$10/mo or $120/year
(AUTO-RENEW)
The cost of doing this work really adds up! Your contribution at this level will cover telephone and internet expenses for one month at the LV editorial offices.

Italic

$20/mo or $240/year
(AUTO-RENEW)
$240 is enough to cover one month’s costs for sending out our weekly entertainment newsletter, The Weekender. Make a contribution at this level to put a little more oomph on your support and your weekend.

Bold

$30/mo or $360/year
(AUTO-RENEW)
LittleVillageMag.com connects eastern Iowa culture with the world. Your contribution at this level will cover the site’s hosting costs for three months. A bold move for our boldest supporters!

All monthly and annual contributors receive:

  • Recognition on our Supporters page (aliases welcome)
  • Exclusive early access when we release new half-price gift cards
  • Access to a secret Facebook group where you can connect with other supporters and discuss the latest news and upcoming events (and maybe swap pet pics?) with the LV staff
  • Invitations to periodic publisher chats (held virtually for now) to meet with Matt and give him a piece of your mind, ask your burning questions and hear more about the future plans for Little Village, Bread & Butter Magazine, Witching Hour Festival and our other endeavors.

Advertisement

Randy's Flooring is a local, employee-owned retailed that has been part of the Corridor for over 40 years, delivering quality and value through the largest selection of carpet, tile, hardwood, window treatments, and specialty products supported by the knowledgeable staff and in-house flooring designers who can help transform residential and commercial spaces.

 
Get Started