Dave Harris – “David And”


The story of my name
goes something like this. Around third grade,
the white kids start calling me “Dave”. Just like them, to make my name smaller. Have you noticed that? They’ll slice even the simplest of names
until it fits their mouth. And happily I accepted the title, more than once. In high school,
they nicknamed me “D-Hair”. It stuck like a new skin. How proud I was to be worth
the space between a giant’s teeth. I smiled whenever they claimed me. I snapped at anyone
who used my other name. The only ones who call me David
are those who have known me forever. Harris is my father’s last name. Harris has English property origins. I belong to my father,
even though he is history. This is how a giant conquers. Fear what you are. A Harris, meaning a slave
to the history before me. I like to think I’ve made the name my own. I can’t tell if I’ve reclaimed myself
or become too numb to change. When they first came
for my name, I surrendered. I’m not lost, though I wonder what I have lost. I longed for specificity. African American is so infinitely vague. I stopped believing in God
because God is an imprecise metaphor. An absent father. Ancestry. I am often overwhelmed
by the feeling of missing. I want a myth with my name on it. Victory. My mountaintop. I point at the third graders
and named them Dirt, Stink, and Rot. I point at the old white men,
and say “Burn,” and there is no more history. I point at my father, and say, “Come home.” “Tell me what my name is.” (applause)

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