He’d spent his life trying to control the names
people gave him;
oh the unfair and the accurate equally hurt.

Just recently he’d been a son-of-a-bitch
and sweetheart in the same day,
and once again knew what antonyms

love and control are, and how comforting
it must be to have a business card –
Manager, Specialist – and believe what it says.

Who, in fact, didn’t want his most useful name
to enter with him,
when he entered a room, who didn’t want to be

that kind of lie? A man who was a sweetheart
and a son-of-a-bitch
was also more or less every name

he’d ever been called, and when you die, he thought,
that’s when it happens,
you’re collected forever into a few small words.

But never to have been outrageous or exquisite,
no grand mistake
so utterly yours it causes whispers

in the peripheries of your presence – that was
his fear.
“Reckless”; he wouldn’t object to such a name

if it came from the right voice with the right
amount of reverence.
Someone nearby, of course, certain to add “fool.”

Analysis, meaning and summary of Stephen Dunn's poem Named

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