Ask ‘What’s your name?’ in the same way you’d
ask ‘How’d you do that?’ of even
a middling magician, with delighted disbelief that you are
witness to such a miracle.
Kids are as protective of their trade secrets,
but this isn’t one of them.
If she replies, ‘Lilian’,
you reply ‘Steve?’ because
you are old with old ears and an old brain.
(It’s funny because it’s true.)
She will, politely, correct you.
‘Bob,’ with certainty.
‘Lilian,’ with frustration.
‘Alex’, with confusion.
Watch her face; she will frown.
She’s looking for the hidden catch,
the palmed coin, the marked card.
Are you playing her, or are you playing?
Paul. Benson. Tom. Ned. Ted.
(But not ‘Gene’. No one ever laughs at ‘Gene’.)
‘Steve!’ And she will laugh.
‘It’s nice to meet you, Steve!’
And she will shake your hand, and laugh again,
because it wasn’t her name. But it was her card.