Baptism

my grandfather stood waist deep in his Sunday best

white pressed sleeves rolled back to the elbows

the thin line press of his undershirt

stuck like pith to his stomach, chest

this was the same pool I’d done flips into the day before

red-rimmed eyes – chlorine stung

knuckles scraped from dragging my hands along the bottom

I had smuggled a cigarette into my purse

hid behind the pool house with a dark-haired boy

and inhaled like it was old hat

I balanced it in the thin triangle of my wrinkle pruned fingers

shared like a kiss

my lips

and his

and smoke and whisper and secrets

my grandfather stood waist deep in his Sunday best,

reciting a sermon from another era

and it bounced, tin can down the sidewalk

clink-clonk in my head

hellfire and damnation are a distracting monotone

when dark-haired boys are watching you slip your dress over your head

wade to the water and slide, mellifluous under the archway of his arms

hand on my head

arms crossed

pinch the nose shut

and I’m held, held, held

man’s hand on my chest

shorts and shirt sopping, sticking

under, under

under

my grandfather stood waist deep in his Sunday best,

just the hint of a fickle memory trickling around the corners

a slowness to his voice

grip grasp on the words, “In the name of the father…”

© Laura A. Lord, 2020


Thank you to MindLoveMisery for the prompt.