By Aïcha Martine
Art by Julianna Beckert
Published Issue 079, July 2020
My name is Aïcha with an ‘A’ and an ‘i’ that wears a crown;
non-kin walk all over me and sigh it’s just a name, just
a name. They desecrate its wilting flower-body
with irregular, secateur-like inflections, sharp and
cutting as the blade of colonial disdain. My name is
Aïcha with an ‘A’, when you say the word, say it with
your chest. Do not put the offending ʃ after the
the ï. Roll the tongue upward and give that diaeresis some
respect. It’s that sibilance that gives flower-body its sway.
You keep wrenching from my hands, and I am back
with my Gorée ancestors, holding tight their names:
Kiné! Leyti! N’deye Fatou! Sarahs and Beths be damned!
I’ll look the privilege I have in the eye and say no.
My name is Aïcha with an ‘A’, I’ll let you try that one again.
When people put the tréma on the letter, I fall wildly
to my knees. Sweet mercy, God alive, I’ll give you anything
you ask for. When people say, really say my name
Dot-dot-slash and all, I hear: You, magnificent beast you,
you take up space and ain’t it something, flower-body
cradled in their fingers like the galaxy holds up the world.
I shouldn’t have to beg for dignity: it arrived in the palm
of my hand when I was born. It was passed from lips to
lips until the sound was deposited in my father’s ear, and he
gave it to me. Aïcha with an ‘ï’, and with a crown on a letter.