Today's poem is by Joanne Dominique Dwyer


To be baptized is to surrender—
to let that long-haired honey cradle you
as if you were a queen, or a prostitute,
or the girl I see at the city pool
who cannot lift herself and is therefore lifted
from her wheelchair, set afloat in a pink tube
like wet laundry waiting to be hung in the sun.
Does the man waiting to be executed
fear death more because he was never baptized?
As if the river could swallow our sins
and keep them secret.
As if algae-green water lapping
over the foreheads of molting snakes
could convert their venom into a cerulean cure for madness.
As if buckets or ladles of blessed water
poured over the heads of infants and small-clawed otters
could safeguard them from stampede.
Submerging my head into, and drinking from,
a birdbath, a horse trough,—a squirt gun shot
into the mouth of the girl in the pool,
a high-powered hose scouring the prison cell
and the man balled-up in the corner
looking like Picasso's Crouching Beggar
or Woman Huddled on the Ground with a Child
painted from the penciled sketches he made
in the women's prison in Paris,
where nuns doubled as guards
and children were confined in cells with their mothers.
Hose me down, and up, into cavities and crevices—
any place I might be hiding.
Be it a full submergence:
The waterfall under which we stuttered,
or the cenotes in the Yucatan
where we jumped from the graffiti-tagged cliffs
and swam in the aphotic black water.
Be it a full submergence:
The mother held all five of her children
down-one at a time in the bathtub.
Same rationale as the priest:
to save them from Satan.
Only she didn't let them back up.
Only it was no longer a braided river.
Paul shat in the water.
Luke wanted his rubber duck.
John bit her finger.
Mary spoke her first word underwater.
Noah struggled, still in his pajamas—
reaching for the plug.

Copyright © 2013 Joanne Dominique Dwyer All rights reserved
from Belle Laide
Sarabande Books
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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