Please Call Me by My True Names – Thich Nhat Hanh

Please Call Me by My True Names

I have a poem for you. This poem is about three of us.  
The first is a twelve-year-old girl, one of the boat  
people crossing the Gulf of Siam. She was raped by a  
sea pirate, and after that she threw herself into the  
sea. The second person is the sea pirate, who was born  
in a remote village in Thailand. And the third person  
is me. I was very angry, of course. But I could not take  
sides against the sea pirate. If I could have, it would  
have been easier, but I couldn't. I realized that if I  
had been born in his village and had lived a similar life  
- economic, educational, and so on - it is likely that I  
would now be that sea pirate. So it is not easy to take  
sides. Out of suffering, I wrote this poem. It is called  
"Please Call Me by My True Names," because I have many names,  
and when you call me by any of them, I have to say, "Yes."

Don't say that I will depart tomorrow -- 
even today I am still arriving.

Look deeply: every second I am arriving 
to be a bud on a Spring branch, 
to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings, 
learning to sing in my new nest, 
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower, 
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry, 
to fear and to hope.

The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death 
of all that is alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing 
on the surface of the river. 
And I am the bird 
that swoops down to swallow the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily 
in the clear water of a pond. 
And I am the grass-snake 
that silently feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones, 
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks. 
And I am the arms merchant, 
selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl, 
refugee on a small boat, 
who throws herself into the ocean 
after being raped by a sea pirate. 
And I am the pirate, 
my heart not yet capable 
of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo, 
with plenty of power in my hands. 
And I am the man who has to pay 
his "debt of blood" to my people 
dying slowly in a forced-labor camp.

My joy is like Spring, so warm 
it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth. 
My pain is like a river of tears, 
so vast it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names, 
so I can hear all my cries and my laughter at once, 
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names, 
so I can wake up, 
and so the door of my heart 
can be left open, 
the door of compassion.

~Thich Nhat Hanh
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