Baptism

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They paint you standing in the river, or kneeling,

never more than waist deep, head inclined,

hands folded in prayer or fluttering at your breast

like a demure virgin answering an angel, ecce ancilla,

while John pours dainty trickles from a shell over your hair.

They are all like this, annunciations not baths,

not baptisms, nothing like the drowning dream

you gasp through at night: dead weight in water,

you kick and claw but go nowhere, air gushes out

in a geyser of bubbles, and the last thing you see is your own

dear face upturned, lolling half sorrowful, half serene

just beneath the surface, the panic over, given in.

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