GIVEN NAME: Listerine Woods by Naima Yael Tokunow

You were misnamed Auguster, a boy’s name some would say,
and your mother called Amy instead of Annie on the birth

certificate, which is a perfect example of why I don’t trust
white folks to keep our records—we become new people

under their hands, just as much strangers to ourselves
as we are to the paper, hidden from our kin that are trying

to find us, wading through decades of papers for our singularities
and finding none, only to realize that sixty-seven years after your birth,

cousin Rosie has to get a signed affidavit and trudge down
to the County Clerk in Red River, and wait for Mary Hausler

to forward it all the way to Baltimore, before you could legally
become LISTERINE, which is really a beautiful name,

and which at nine, had yet to grace a school paper, or the inside
of a teacher’s mouth, and the silence where school children taunts

usually lie is no tradeoff for not having a schoolhouse to learn
you. That you that was misspelled as Lexereen and Lestirene

in censuses spanning decades, so at least here, you name,
which was only officially recognized a few years before your death,

is not a joke, but like citrine hidden in a rock of record-keeping,
is a cut to the tongue like a glossy jewel, all yours and all brilliant.

Naima Yael Tokunow (née Woods) is an educator, writer and editor, currently living in New Mexico. Her work (and life) focus around interrogating black femme identity & privilege, social justice and black futurity. She is the author of three chapbooks, MAKE WITNESS, published in 2016 by Zoo Cake Press, Planetary Bodies, out from Black Warrior Review in 2019, and Shadow Black, the winner of Frontier’s 2020 Digital Chapbook Prize, chose by Pulitzer Prize winner, Jericho Brown. She is a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee, a TENT Residency Fellow & has attended The Home School workshop in Miami. She proudly edits the Black Voice Series for Puerto del Sol and the Scarlet blog for Jaded Ibis. New work is published or forthcoming from bone bouquet, Bayou, Winter Tangerine, Nat. Brut, juked, Diagram and elsewhere. More information is available at She is blessed to be black and alive.