For immigrant families, starting a new life also means leaving something behind. My family, like so many others, left names. When my parents became U.S. citizens they dropped our long, difficult Thai name Komutdang and adopted the shortcut my father’s students used. “Mr. K” they called him. So we became Kays. My birth certificate has the old name crossed out, but still visible beneath the line, and the new one typed in next to it. My maternal grandfather had also been an immigrant, leaving India for Thailand. He chose a Thai name to match his new home. Though my name, a mix of our Indian/Thai roots and our new American identity seems completely mine, I recognize the fragility of both name and identity.

It rained on my birthday,

so they named me rain.

And, along with my father,


I might be a red lotus,

floating on quiet water.

But with birth

comes assimilation

into the world,

where tiny feet

are pressed into ink,

onto paper,

and planted in

the soil of new life.

The lotus does not grow

on the Great Plains.

Here, rain comes dark

over the horizon,

with the rumble of thunder.

So the image evaporated,

sky slowly swallowed water,

leaving behind

just echoes of sound,

shadow of letters,

the fragile inheritance

of names.