How to Baptize a Child in Flint, Michigan


First, hold the curve of his head
like packed snow, a struck match,

like a field mouse you promise
you’ll let back into the grass.

Say he can be anything;
refill his root beer;
read him a story.

Say, “Yes, people like us can be great, too.”

If you’re going to the firehouse, bring him with you;

tell him, “God is good,”
even if the guardsman’s cigarette
says God has lost control.

At home, dinner in the microwave,
Mountain Dew and TV light,

when the textbook
insists we are already water
say, “Of course, we are, boo,”

though you don’t know the specifics,
just that Pastor says river is a holy thing;
Jesus himself could walk it in bare feet.

On Easter, when he falls asleep during the altar call,
when he wakes and whispers,
“What is brimstone? What’s repentance?”

send him out to the narthex,
ask him if he’s thirsty,

tell him, “These reckoning songs
are not for us.”



(winner of the Editors’ Prize in Poetry)