This Is Why You Need Them

By William Soldan

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Names. You’ve got this thing with them. The names of plants, rocks, native species. Concrete details have become a favorite pastime.

Vehicles, clouds, chemical compounds.

You file names away in no particular order but know right where they are when you need them. And you will. Need them.

Architecture, muscles, functions.

You pass names on to the little boy beside you at every turn. Holding him up to the pull-up bar in the bathroom doorway of a thirty-year mortgage, a pale blue neo-colonial, you say, These are your lats, from the Latin, Latissimus Dorsi. And these, your traps, your rhomboids. All united in scapular adduction, retraction, and downward rotation. You say, Your Biceps Brachii are here, but we just call them pythons or guns.

And when you take him to the park: This here is goldenrod, which looks a bit like horseweed before it blooms in late summer.

Pokeberry, Pin Oak, Queen Anne’s Lace.

Sometimes you quiz him, just for grins. You say, What’s this called?

Tell me, he says. Tell me tell me.

You tell him. Everything you know.

Because even though the spot of blood on your pillow was likely just dry sinuses (epistaxis) or a scratched eardrum (otorragia), you never know, do you? So you point it all out—the custom Ford Fairlane, the thin wisp of cirrus, the circular course of his August constellation—hoping he’ll remember you.

The line of your jaw in a gothic arch.

Your hand waving him onward in a verge of bobbing foxtail.

– William Soldan