My name is Marlene.
When I was small, they called me –‘Kinnie’.
Because I always pointed to other children, with –
<<Look at the Kinnie!>>
My daughter’s name is Helena.
When she was small I called her – ‘Goggatjie’.
(In Afrikaans it means a very small beetle or insect.
A ladybird e.g. is a goggatjie.)
It feels nice in the mouth.
Light and round, it pleases the tongue.
But she’s growing. Now she’s ten.
She no longer looks like that.
Still we miss it. Gone is that time, with that name.
When I say it now as an expression of love
it is to convey closeness, not resemblance.
Soon new loves will name her anew,
without asking me.

I’ve heard that the name of God
is whispered into the ears of a Muslim baby.
The first words that he hears at his birth
are the same, he hopes to utter
when he dies.
As a teenager I bought records for their covers
I drank wine for their labels
I painted paintings for their titles
what was the name, of the first man, to go insane?



Titles, first names and diminutives (Translated from South African)

Marlene Dumas


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