Dead Name Sings, A Spoken Word Poem, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

Dead Name Sings
A Spoken Word Poem
Jennifer Angelina Petro



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Dead Name Sings


Jennifer Angelina Petro


I do not wish to erase a life,

By attempting to wash away a name,

Joseph is not a dead name.

It lives on, echoing in Jennifer,

Weaving through references

And documents, old photographs and letters,

It lives on because memories are living things;

Please do not mishear or misinterpret

What I am saying—Joseph was a name

Given to a body—not a soul,

Not an understood gender;

I am Jennifer Angelina Petro—my chosen name—

And that is how I will be called—it is, one could say

My married name—I kept the surname—

For Joseph and I are married in perhaps

The truest sense of the word—

And so I am to be called: Jennifer Angelina Petro.

Call me Joseph and I might weep

And he will understand

And take no offence–he wants me to be seen,

Affirmed and embraced by the world;

For these reasons alone,

I have no interest in evaporating

An entire existence, because it did not

Encompass then who I am now.

Joseph was a gentleman,

And like all good men, offered to give himself

Completely to his beloved, and so we are one,

And I know he did pretty fucking good

All those years I lived unknown.

Joseph held down the fort

Until the cavalry of truth came riding in

Blowing the doors off a life lived in shadows,

And he sang while no one, and everyone,

Was listening:

“Jennifer Angelina,

Love of my life, true goddess of my soul.”

And yes he sings through this voice, and touches

Through these hands—

He deserves as much for all he has done,

For all he suffered from those who tried to keep him

From knowing I was there waiting in the wings,

Sending signals and cues, lines, and motions,

Gestures, and fascinations that bemused him

With secret joy,

He tried to let me out and was met

With abuse and the worst of what religion can do,

So he did what he could to keep me alive and safe–

He hid me in the pockets of his dreams,

Singing all the while where only I could hear:

“Jennifer Angelina,

Love of my life, true goddess of my soul.”

And when he finally began to crack

From the weight of carrying a whole other life

In the womb of his soul, he crumbled,

Did his best to break my fall as he fell, and then,

As I stepped more and more into the open,

He slowly disappeared behind the curtains,

Singing: “Jennifer Angelina,

Love of my life, true goddess of my soul.”

But he is not dead–

Joseph lives on,

And he is holy—a sacristy made of unwanted

Flesh and blood  where a priestess of beauty

Prepares for mass.

And the more I take center stage

And live a life of epic proportions,

And grand style, operatic adventures,

And plot twists a-plenty, the more he willingly

Fades into the background, back to into spirit,

And he does not want to be beckoned back,

He does not want his name called out—

He laid down his life for the sake of his love–

And as he fades I hear him

Whispering incantations and prayers,

Spells of enchantment and protection,

Runes of good cheer and prosperity,

And sometimes, from the rafters,

Where he has perched himself to watch and to guide,

I hear: “Jennifer Angelina,

Love of my life, true goddess of my soul.”

And we celebrate the end of a run,

And toast the beginning of a life

Lived in lights–where anything is possible,

And all things shine freely, truer than true,

A life full of roses and ovations, dinner parties

And rave reviews,

And more calling cards than the biggest star

On Broadway,

And sometimes, when the house has emptied

And I am alone backstage, removing my makeup,

He steals next to me, drapes his coat

Over my shoulders,

And walks me home through the hatred

I live with and the alleyways, and the transphobia

That echoes with far away trains and honking cars,

Scavenging cats, and sirens that flash in the puddles

And shop windows,

And when we get to my place

He kisses my hand, and turns,

Shimmering once again into the shadows, singing,

Like spring, like moonlight,

Like stars, like wind, like an angel, he sings:

“Jennifer Angelina, love of my life,

True goddess of my soul.”


All donations go to furthering my transition.  Thank you.




4 thoughts on “Dead Name Sings, A Spoken Word Poem, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

  1. I find this to be a beautiful depiction of a tortured soul morphing into a new body and a new life. I admire your courage and I applaud your poetic integrity.
    Peace and love,

    • Thank you Sarah. The body isn’t new so much as in need of some adjustments. The life is quite new though, but even that is also part and parcel with the “old life.” Thanks again for writing and for your admiration. Yours, Jennifer

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