Back to Issue One.

Baptism

BY DORIANNE LAUX

 

I was never baptized, never dunked
under the metallic water and pulled back,
gulping air like a salmon, my limp body
cascading from a minister’s bare arms.
I do remember a bible open on the dais,
its calloused leather cover, the drone
of the pedal organ, my mother’s hands
barking on the keys, her bony knees.
I remember the hymns, the glassy sea,
the three person god, Doxology,
the “from whom” the “heavenly host.”
We wore our white sneakers to church
in summer. In winter, my brother wore
his wide wale corduroy pants, our mother
her string of pearls and steel blue dress
flocked with swiss dots, her removable
lace collar. She couldn’t decide. First
she was Catholic, then we were Methodists,
then Unitarians. She didn’t believe
and then she did. I don’t know what happened
to change her mind so many times. After,
there were lemons and thunder, sometimes
a barbeque, and one day we heard
the word agnostic, then atheist, then
arguments and the breaking of dinner plates,
then nothing for a long time, though
she continued to play the hymns
and we hummed along, the idea of god
a fading concept, something we began
to unknow as the song unwound
from the words like smoke, formless,
worlds without end. 

 

 

A finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, Dorianne Laux’s fourth book of poems, Facts about the Moon (W.W. Norton), was the recipient of the Oregon Book Award and short-listed for the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. Laux is also author of Awake, What We Carry, and Smoke from BOA Editions, as well as Superman: The Chapbook and Dark Charms, both from Red Dragonfly Press. Recent poems appear in American Poetry Review, Cimarron Review, Cerise Press, Margie, The Seattle Review, Tin House and The Valparaiso Review and her fifth collection of poetry, The Book of Men, will be published by W.W. Norton in 2011. Laux teaches in the MFA Program at North Carolina State University.