“What’s in a Name?” by Elena Bentley

Poetry Pause is the League of Canadian Poets’ daily poetry dispatch. This June, Poetry Pause celebrates Indigenous and LGBTQI2S+ poets for Indigenous History Month and Pride Month! Read “What’s in a Name?” by Elena Bentley.

What’s in a Name?

By Elena Bentley

In some circles, I don’t have the right

last name. Didn’t grow up in the right

places. In some circles, my last name

isn’t the kind of name the locals can

follow through town, like a map to all

the right faces. In some circles, I’m

just another out-of-towner, trespassing,

deep diving for long-forgotten stories

forbidden to strangers. But my last name

is a tributary, a branch joined to others—

Cardinal, Laframboise, Lafontaine—

all the way to the Red River, I swim in

their brisk waters. Treading lightly near

the edges, where raspberries grow sweet

and ruby birds with dark faces trill.

I swim with kin, in my ancestors’ names.

They encircle my body, carry me along.

Copyright © Elena Bentley

Elena Bentley is a multi-genre writer and proud Métis aunty. Her poetry chapbook, taliped, was recently published by 845 Press (taliped was also a finalist for the 2022 Vallum Chapbook Award). You can find her poems in literary journals like Arc Poetry, Room, The Malahat Review, and PRISM international, among others. She received an Honourable Mention in Grain’s 2022 Short Grain (Poetry) Contest, and in 2021 she was a finalist for CV2’s 2-Day Poem Contest. She is the author of the children’s picture book The Pickle in Grandma’s Fridge (YNWP, 2022), and she was shortlisted for CANSCAIP’s 2023 Writing for Children Competition (Young Adult category). Elena is the Editor for Grain Magazine.

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