Retiring the Human Name

by Kristin Robertson

What I want to do in my Adirondack lean
                next to a one-legged man

on the porch of the last seafood place
                slinging swai po boys and bottled beer

before the hurricane evacuation
                is ask how he lost it.

I’d hear about his crab trap
                sprung at the bay shore, his slip,

his knee scrape and bruise
                first maybe the size of a sea flea,

growing to a seahorse brood pouch,
                by dusk big as a sea floor tar ball

tumbling toward him in the night
                when red streaks eeled up his thigh.

The doctor in the ER told him:
                I’ll give it to you straight.

What I do is watch the local women
                who’ll stay through the storm,

their hair whipping around them
                as if under the water already.

I help secure a skirt, chase a sunhat, as the wind—
                oh, the wind—as the man with one leg

explains Ivan means John in Russian,
                as he catches a woman’s gold earring

midair, as it flashes over his head like a beacon.
                So many Ivans, he says, the great and the terrible.

KRISTIN ROBERTSON recently graduated with a PhD in creative writing from Georgia State University, where she served as an assistant editor for Five Points. Her poetry has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Smartish Pace, Copper Nickel, Mid-American Review, and Verse Daily. She lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, and teaches at Maryville College.