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Names of Things
By Megha Harish


I’m reading a book of poetry

The poet is a South Indian woman,

an academic, writing about South Indian women things.

I like it, it’s more relatable than most things I read.


I have just enjoyed a poem about a balcony while sitting on my own balcony,

and then one about her daughter and how much she likes hugs.


I turn the page, now there’s a nature poem.

The first line ends with ‘egrets’


and I am back to where I began.


Back to wondering what claim I have over words, let alone poetry,

if I do not know the names of things.


When in company (oh, those were the days) and around nature,

I often ask the names of things.

Sometimes my companions know too – which is lovely.


I do not know the names of plants,

or flowers,

or birds,

or vegetables (sometimes not in any language),

or dals,

or spices,

or songs,

or movies.


It feels I am missing not only a world of poetic nomenclature,

but the entire lexicon of my generation, and just of living.


Instead I know the names of

books I have not read,

theories I do not understand,

teas I hoard and don’t drink often enough,

places I cannot locate on maps or atlases because my geography is terrible,

characters from young adult novels that no one else is reading anymore,

my friends’ families for when ammoomma asks,


the people in their lives and their pasts, I might remember the name of that girl you wrote a love letter to in fourth grade, but I will almost certainly never recognise an actor by their name.


Not because I spend any less time watching Netflix than you do

but because if Patrick Rothfuss said

a word is nothing but a painting of a fire. a name is the fire itself


I am still learning to paint and it will be a while longer before I learn to see as well.

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