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A New Name for Newborns

By Serge Pey

This poem was written for the January 11, 2015, unity march in Paris in response to the Charlie Hebdo murders. It is translated into English by Dan Bellm.

When I was born
my mother gave me a name I didn’t choose
out of all the alphabets 
and letters

I’ve carried it around nonstop
I’ve used it as my address my signature
it’s even on my tomb
it’s in the silence of photos people take of me

But as of this morning
I’ve changed my name and address
From now on I’m Charlie
from Charlie Street
like thousands of other men 
and dogs
and women and cries
like Alpha Bravo
Charlie Delta Echo
Completely Charlie
Absolutely Charlie

Because my cartridge belt’s loaded
with pens and erasers
for drawing the world’s laughter 
that can never be wiped out

And because I’ve got nothing else
and because my mouth 
bursts into slivers
like a pane of glass
in a pool of laughs

But let’s be clear
my new name doesn’t yet appear
on infinity’s joke calendar 
So I call in the night
and I call on you
to add your saint too
to the list 
of the names of light

Because I know
that unknown names 
are among us 
here 
very still in the silence
most of all the names of those 
who cry on birthdays 
and deathdays
eyes scanning the skies

Won’t you 
help me
I want Charlie added to the list 
of human spirits
who laugh out of hope

Help me 
in this January sun
which is itself a laugh-reservoir 
losing drop by drop
the absolute force of its given names
and cries
Today will be the feast of St. Charlie
even for someone like me 
who doesn’t believe in any heaven 
hidden in the stars
since heaven’s all around us 
which is the kind of hope
that makes me laugh

January 9, 2015

"Un nouveau prénom à donner aux enfants qui naissent" © 2015 by Serge Pey. Published in Mediapart. Translation © 2015 by Dan Bellm. All rights reserved.


Published Jan 10, 2015   Copyright 2015 Serge Pey

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