Centuries ago at EST, when I waved my hand, praying the Trainer would choose me — as lost as my friend Helen who got married and now her name isn't in the phone book anymore —for the Birth Process because he was teaching all 300 of us, simultaneously, to get in touch with our bodies and the Self (I'd heard it was like being reborn, alive again, assertive, experiencing —wailing Oh Moon of Alabama in the tub, charging that fringy sequin dress,
*This excerpt originally was from a larger poem that was part of a seventeen-part dramatic sequence.
feeling, instead of being a machine and just meshing gears even though they don't let you go to the bathroom and keep you in folding chairs until 4 AM), the Trainer pointed, "You —Miss Intensity —in the red sweater, Sweetheart, up here," and I sat in the director's chair, high as a bar stool, with a microphone like his, close enough to smell his aftershave lotion, and I was Miss Intensity for two whole weekends even though it wasn't on my name tag —
it wasn't like he just gave me my name, it was finally somebody knew who I was, even though
I might have been suspicious of another name from another man — usually some animal name first like Bunny, or Pussy Cat, then you marry them and take theirs (unless of course you hyphenate) and then they begin to speak in the imperative voice —
it's a common problem, for instance, last winter when I went for pregnancy tests every month, the nurse read my name one day and said "Aren't you related to Dr. So-and-so?" and I said "What? That's not my real name,"
and she gave me the funniest look and just set the bottle on the counter and we both laughed and she wiped her eyes and said "Gee, none of us have real names," and when I came back she said "Dearheart, you're not pregnant, you're just old,"
so all spring I bought those home tests at the drug store, but they wouldn't turn blue, and then I forgot about my name, I guess, until that day at the gas station I was trying to put air in my right front tire and somebody stole my purse
(reached right in and picked it up off the car seat), and my driver's license and all my credit cards, my social security card — all with my married name — and I thought how will I prove who I am and then poems, nobody else could have written my poems because once in a workshop this famous poet said I
had an individual voice and I thought Honey I haven't even started talking, but now I wondered do words have different kinds of whorls for everybody, like finger prints and then I thought well, they'll believe my husband, but instead of going home I drove to the mall — a V2 price sale — and tried on a paisley maternity dress (marked down for the third time, completely lined, a famous maker although the label was cut off), scared he'd be angry, and then I searched the lot for the car and sat on the curb in front of Saks 5th Avenue looking up at the clouds, wondering where's the car and how in the world did I get too old to have a baby and what will I say if he yells at me, when I suddenly saw my face, my own face in the clouds, an alabaster statue and then, slowly she turned, and she was still me — down to my nose and the silver lame scarf tied around my throat in a bow and my hair avant garde like Ricardo did it at the Fall Make-Over when he transformed me into the real me and I wondered is seeing my face an omen for getting pregnant or winning the lottery or even finding the car, but the clouds disappeared and I thought most people wouldn't believe
Miss Intensity is my real name, but they are wrong. ,
— Katherine Murphy
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