Baptized at ten
given too soon a clean heart ashiny new spirit
so much left of me to make filthy.
When I turned teenager
my mother tells me to wash it well notto walk around in the world
Tells me drink it girl,
it tastes the same when it’s cold.
I’ve learned to clean things
more than once. Learned to cut thegrease with lemon and soap.
Wrung around my hands are many cloths a
single rag for a dozen tasksforbade to throw it away until it was holey
everything used past capacity.
A pastor promised me
the protection of a God cloaked mygreased and braided head
with water from a private basin.
Grown now, and swishing in my hips
I compound all that is sweet into an anchordiscovering in the deep sea, there’s another sea
saltier than the first.
I convulse in the brine of my tradition loitering
among the shovel and skilletdevoted as an acolyte
offering the allegiance of my only two hands.