By any other name By Kara Dorris

By any other name 

I read crackhouse in the sidewalk cracks,
in the zigzag patterns of ants,
crackhouse in the police cars cruising, in the cockroach cups

& ghostly plastic bags blown across yellowed grass.
Crackhouse in the wrecked windows,
in the stenciled skulls over peace signs.

My brother says tagging has been traced to the Roman Empire,
preserved by the eruption of Versuvius.
It seems we have always had the urge to declare

& curse ourselves, to scratch our names
beneath bleachers, in the DNA of our children,
in the cities of our dead.

But is it enough to substitute a name for our presence?
In what letter, what curve or line lies
my brother’s search, stepping over twisted tourniquets

& arms as thin as needles, finding our dad
so high in a crackhouse he didn’t recognize his son?
We step over so many bodies navigating those we love—

it has been a harsh winter. The coyotes devoured a nest
of raccoons, & I learned I cannot afford to love
things that are not fenced. Do all these bodies

make up the o in our last name? Is the final r
our reaching arms or our father’s?
What do we know about the names we are given?

We know the holes in the boundaries,
to sacrifice the out of bounds glyph over the i
like a firebug caught in the glow of undressed lightbulbs.

We know to walk through the dorr of Dorris to be alone.
We wait. But searching is a kind of waiting;
it’s the divide between being better as a daughter

& being better as his daughter.
My brother has always been the better son of everyone.
When he walks up to a crackhouse he ignores

the tagging that reads addicts only. No one stops him.
I guess there is an addict in us all.

By Kara Dorris


Kara Dorris earned a PhD in literature and poetry at the University of North Texas where she teaches writing. Her poetry has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Southword, The Tusculum Review, Harpur Palate, Cutbank, Tinderbox, KYSO Flash, The Tulane Review, and Crazyhorse, among others literary journals, as well as the anthology Beauty is a Verb (Cinco Puntos Press, 2011). Her stories have appeared in Wordgathering and the anthology The Right Way to be Crippled and Naked (Cinco Puntos Press, 2016). She has published two chapbooks: Elective Affinities (Dancing Girl Press, 2011) and Night Ride Home (Finishing Line Press, 2012). She is also the editor of Lingerpost, an online poetry journal.

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