My Name

Click on photos to enlarge.

My Name

It would have never occurred
to my mother or father
to look up the meaning of the name
before giving it to me.

In the Apocrypha,
Judith slew the Asian general
to save her people.

In Ethiopia, Judith is “Yodit,”
cruel usurper of the throne
and destroyer of Axum.

These women my parents had no knowledge of
might well have scorned the “Judy” I evolved into,
despite my mother’s best intentions
of always calling me Judith Kay.

Uncle Herman called me Jude
and I loved that,
but for years,
until I married,
nobody else ever did.
I never had many nicknames,
except from my father who called me Pole Cat
and my sister who called  me Jooj Pooj.

My oldest sister, Betty Jo,
knows her name
might have been prompted
by the popularity of Betty Boop
and my sister Patti Adair
has the same middle name
as her cousin Jayne
because my mother named them both,
but there is no story
for my given names.,
except that my mother liked them both.

I can draw a wading bird
using just the letters of my first name
in the correct progression,
lifting the pen off the paper only twice,
to form  the eye and leg.
Yet for years,
my name was a bird
that hadn’t found its wings.

My surname was carried to America
in the hull of a ship—
when my grandmother,
born of Dutch-immigrant parents,
married to an immigrant
Dutch baker to have a son
who passed the name Dykstra on to me.

Judy Kay Dykstra

The last two letters of my first name
and my middle initial
are the first three letters of my last name,
and the remaining four letters, rearranged, spell “star.”
Nobody planned that.


The “dyke” part of my name is self-explanatory,
and the suffix “stra” is derived from 
the old Germanic word “sater,”
meaning “dweller,”
and although I’ve never lived by a seawall,
I like my name in its Dutch Shoes.

My surname
is not frequently seen
in the phonebooks
of most towns.
I’m not the one

who put it in famous places
like “Dykstra Hall” at UCLA or
in baseball statistics
on the sports page,
and it was John Dykstra
who had it engraved
on the academy award.

But it was my name written
along with my phone number
over the urinal at the library
in turquoise magic marker
by a disgruntled student,
and it took one month of late-night phone calls
from men asking, “Do you . . .?”
before a caller admitted
where he found
the number
and was persuaded
to wash it off the wall.

And it was my name
written on the label of
a favorite coat left at the pier
and never returned,
so ever afterwards,
perhaps, my name
pressed against someone else’s neck.

I keep trying to change my name
into something else.

Into a bird.
Into a married name.

Drop mine, take his.
Keep mine and his,
I take his, he takes mine,
so we exchange names, both keeping both.
In the end, though, he drops mine, I keep both.

Judith Kay Dykstra-Brown. Bob Brown

My name next to his on a gravestone
in my hometown in South Dakota,
only mine open-dated.

My name on a paycheck every month for years,
and in the records of the tax collector,
then on a social security check.

For so long,
I was not yet within my name.
I wanted it to hold me,
but I couldn’t squeeze into it.

Until, finally,
my name on books and art
that told its full story.

Judy Dykstra-Brown.

I made it mine.


The prompt for NaPoWriMo for April 14 was to write a poem “that delves into the meaning of your first or last name.” The photo of the Murdo, S.D. phonebook circa 1955 was contributed by Wayne Esmay. Thanks, Wayne–a nice synchronicity that you published this in the Jones County History days after I wrote this poem. Is it obvious from the number of D’s in the phone book that I grew up in a very small town? Ben Dykstra was my father. Walter Dykstra was my grandfather.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , on by .

About lifelessons

My blog, which started out to be about overcoming grief, quickly grew into a blog about celebrating life. I post daily: poems, photographs, essays or stories. I've lived in countries all around the globe but have finally come to rest in Mexico, where I've lived since 2001. My books may be found on Amazon in Kindle and print format, my art in local Ajijic galleries. Hope to see you at my blog.

31 thoughts on “My Name

    1. lifelessons Post author

      And, there is one other reason you might relate to it. My research told me that Judith actually means “‘Jewess.” Is that correct? I know Judith was a Jew, but is that a correct definition of the name?


    1. lifelessons Post author

      This one took a looooong time. Interesting considering your own name. I had actually written much of this for a chapter in the book I’m presently working on, but my sister thought it didn’t belong so I had filed it. How nice of NaPoWriMo to present us with this prompt within days of my rejecting it for the book. Even the rewriting and translating it into a poem, however, and finding the illustrations, took much more time than writing a new poem would have. But, waste not, want not. The synchronicity was too much to abandon it.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. SAM VOELKER

        And here I had been thinking that you were descended from a young boy, named Hans Brinker who was long called De Dykstra after he sat on a dike with his finger in it, to prevent the whole of Holland from flooding by de Zuiderzee ~!

        B.T.W. my debut in acting was in school play in the first grade~! And to show how good my memory is, my poetic lines were: “Hans Brinker has his skates I see, I hope he’s come to play with me~!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Andrea R Huelsenbeck

    You did a great job with the prompt. I didn’t know what to do with my name. I opted for the Writer’s Digest prompt instead. If I’d read your poem first, I might have thought to do something about my given middle name. Oh, well. Maybe another day.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. bushboy

    So love this tale of your name Judy. My “logo” of me I drew was a self portrait using my initials enhanced by facial features at the time. Your bird is wonderful 🙂 🙂


  3. KL Caley

    Wow great post and so well researched. I always thought Judy was a lovely name. Isn’t it strange how we are drawn to certain names and not so keen on others? I found this out whilst naming my son, even after he arrived he had no name for a little while. KL ❤

    Liked by 1 person


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.