My poem, Born Without an Umlaut, appears on Silver Birch Press as part of the All About My Name Poetry Series!
Born Without an Umlaut
by Carol A. Stephen
Born to an unpronounceable surname,
I wandered through school always
far down the list at roll call, knew
my turn had come when teacher stopped
after my first name. That same cough, a glance up,
then the struggle: Swuh, Swuh, SSSS –
Embarrassed, I’d raise my hand, call out “Here!”
Always the middle vowels tying tongues. “AE.”
I could see by their wrinkled frowns
they were thinking: Is it AY? Or the long Ah?
Swaebe. Could be Swayb, could be Swab, or even Swabby:
that odd name missing its precious umlaut.
Dad’s long gone. I search for him online, looking
for clues to never-mentioned relatives and ancestors.
Discover Dad, born under another unpronounceable name.
Not Swaebe at all, he was a Pfahl! (Fall or Pfffal?)
I cough, I struggle. I wonder if he ever knew.
How would life have unfolded, if our…
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