Hunt Hawkins – Mourning the Dying Female Names
This month’s Versed in Florida is with Hunt Hawkins - Chair of the English Department at the University of South Florida in Tampa. He previously held the same position at Florida State University. He earned both his Masters and his Ph.D. from Stanford. Hawkins specializes in Modern British Literature, Postcolonial Literature, and poetry writing. He’s published two books and many articles and poems including today’s installment in which he mourns dying American female names with WGCU’s Amy Tardif.
Mourning the Dying American Female Names
In the Altha Diner on the Florida panhandle
a stocky white-haired woman
with a plastic nameplate “Mildred”
gently turns my burger, and I fall into grief.
I remember the long, hot drives to North Carolina
to visit Aunt Alma, who put up quarts of peaches,
and my grandmother Gladys with her pieced quilts.
Many names are almost gone: Gertrude, Myrtle,
Agnes, Bernice, Hortense, Edna, Doris, and Hilda.
They were wide women, cotton-clothed, early rising.
You had to move your mouth to say their names,
and they meant strength, spear, battle, and victory.
When did women stop being Saxons and Goths?
What frog Fate turned them into Alison, Melissa,
Valerie, Natalie, Adrienne, and Lucinda,
diminished them to Wendy, Cindy, Suzy, and Vicky?
I look at these young women
and hope they are headed for the presidency,
but I fear America has other plans in mind,
that they be no longer at war
but subdued instead in amorphous corporate work,
somebody’s assistant, something in a bank,
single parent with word-processing skills.
They must have been made French
so they could be cheap foreign labor.
Well, all I can say is,
Good luck to you
Kimberly, Darlene, Cheryl, Heather, and Amy.
Good luck April, Melanie, Becky, and Kelly.
I hope it goes well for you.
But for a moment let us mourn.
Now is the time to say good-bye
to Florence, Muriel, Ethel, and Thelma.
Good-bye Minnie, Ada, Bertha, and Edith.