Photography © Linda Matthews-Denham


My Names

My folks didn’t know that the one
they didn’t pick, that was foisted
upon us, a forgotten history, a
conviction or acquittal pronounced
in a dream trial for a dream crime
that erased itself like passion —
was a patronymic for Robin, a
diminutive of Robert. It’s a stretch,
but since stretching is my chief
virtue, this accounts for the lack of
Roberts on my dad’s side, which drew
me to a Bob for my first crush,
feeling it would seal the circle if
I brought him into the clan. (He
wasn’t to be brought.) They claimed
no reason lay within the first and
the middle names. I didn’t believe
them, thought they were hiding
something, till, at 54, I realized
Timothy and Allen were my choices,
my first verbal achievement — that
I was one of a rare breed of fetuses
that, for nine months, whisper our
names into a communicative dark.
I didn’t choose by meaning. I chose
as one chooses clothes. (And what
could they have been hiding? A fairy-
foretold doom only those names could
thwart? Pick a curse. Assertiveness
always aimed inward. A tendency
to float away if no man, no hundred
-kilo bag of quicksand, pins me
down. The urge to mate under a
candle that drips lava, to gather
wool over a spindle completing
a spinning wheel or a three milliliter
barrel.) There was a nickname I
hated. When Dad said it, I would
throw my thirty pounds at his
laughing trunk, flailing and striking
with my awkward palms. Maybe he
used it so often because my anger
was hilarious, and his need for
hilarity was imperious. Maybe he
wanted to teach me to fight back.
I thought of this for the first time
today, wading through the surrenders
that clutter my first half century.
Timothy Two Tittle. I believed the
moniker was meant to mock an
unseen deformity — as, in my
innocence, I missed his simplicity.


Timothy Robbins has been teaching English as a Second Language for 30 years. He has been a regular contributor to Hanging Loose since 1980 and his poems have appeared in many other literary journals. He has published five volumes of poetry: Three New Poets (Hanging Loose Press), Denny’s Arbor Vitae (Adelaide Books), Carrying Bodies (Main Street Rag Press) Mother Wheel (Cholla Needles Press) and This Night I Sup in Your House ( He lives in Wisconsin with his husband of 25 years.

Linda Matthews-Denham lives in the countryside along the Thames River in Berkshire, England. Her passion is photography, photo restoration and art history of Paris. She also works very closely with many British authors restoring images for publication.