“What’s in a Name?”


by Elizabeth Matthews


“Consecrated,” I was told my name meant.

I was happy to belong to God, but I was scared

That He expected me to act like it.


I paid service to dogma, though, so I wore

a cross as decoration and as declaration.

I never heard my full name from my peers;


teachers, though. They smile, Disney-villain wide

In an easy name like Elizabeth or Beth.

Elizabeth is a good name, a Christian name, they say.


(Do they know that Mary’s mother, Elizabeth,

was a Jew?  Do they know that Jesus was too?)

From peers, I hear variations on my name.


Like Liz, or Lizzie, or Betsy, anything shorter.

I told them, when I was younger,

“My name is Elizabeth – friends call me Beth.”


They don’t say it, though I strain to hear “Beth”

In the soft-vowel cooing they whisper like secret doves.

It’s ugly in print – my eyes seek prettier words.


I look up often, startled as a doe and as afraid

that I’ve heard it: Beth, can you hear?  Oh Beth.

Elizabeth. Oh Beth. Beth, you are my friend.


Pay attention, Elizabeth Marie!

Elizabeth -- Christian, Jew, virgin queen,

Marie – French for Mary, another virgin (or in France,


another queen), my ancestral mothers

unbroken, with stiff backs

bearing the weight of their intended virtue


holding court in palaces before and after death

bearing fruit of holy and royal blood that did not mar their patina

or fail to live up to God’s expectations.