The long baptism

Or “They who pass for brothers”

A boy strolls—in humid dark—
foremost his face turns the palest
when he gives his heart away
& the rest of him freely—
& when he forgives he weeps,
next to old men at market
who themselves never hear it from him—
& turns the bone of his back toward
the sun when the sun would ask
for a bronzer him, a human flask—
& must wash his whiskey away
in the darker sleep than a casket may
for his liver is a wilting jack—
& he learned to whistle through
broken teeth, but a few intact,
learned to bite his tongue in half—
& forgets nibbles issue muffled oft
in both the ecstatic touch
& in the dullness of an unlit croft—
& what braced him was not another one
but a bedroom, a father’s son,
the question “What have ye done
with me tonight, for me alone?”—
& the dusk here accompanies him home
on his stroll from the gravestones
& the gasping mouth he sucked, once, no longer.


Revisionary notes:

“Oft” in place of “soft,” “sucked” in place of “felt,” “undercroft” in place of “croft,” & “teeth (or crowns) abused” in place of “broken teeth,” or find a better adjective than “broken.” Any changed words shouldn’t distort the piece, will change a few meanings and connotations, but alterations will be acceptable–nibbles issuing often or softly both add an element each. Also, one of the the words “thralled, held, braced, stayed” in place of “saved.” Must revise the title. Replace “it is dark” with “in humid dark.” Replace second “stroll” with “lone stroll.” Enforce the time period which is an estimable 1700-1800s, pre-1870. “Crippled laying” or “ecstatic coupling/touch” in place of “passion of touch.” “…old men at market” in place of “…old men at times.”

This piece is dedicated to Jukboo for all his discourse.

~ by Jeremy on May 26, 2010.

One Response to “The long baptism”

  1. Yours is the first poem I’ve read in ages. I was sick again, another week. Thankfully that’s done. I don’t have much to comment on after this first reading. The images are good, having many layers of meaning. It is like looking at a large painting a bit at a time, letting the images blend as I back up to try and take in the whole. I agree with you about changing the title. I just can’t see a connection to the poem and I’m not sure if it gives a proper signpost for where the poem is going. I love the “turns the bone of his back toward/the sun when the sun would ask for a bronzer him.” Such a skeletal image, and society likes things tanner, “prettier,” don’t they? And “human flask” is another image I really like. This one empty in a different way. Why the use of ampersand instead of “and”? I like it because it streamlines the reading and focuses on the imagery not the connector. Is that it? I guess I did have a few thoughts to share. You’ve got solid clues to the time/setting, but perhaps more are needed because I didn’t recognize it until reading your revisionary notes. That could also be because I expected a modern setting instead reading without expectation. Simple word choice will probably be enough. You were already thinking about a different world for “broken,” right? The only spot that was a problem was “what braced him was not another one/but a bedroom, a father’s son,/the question “What have ye done/with me tonight, for me alone?” There is more in this than comes across to the reader, more story, more event. Some word or phrase is needed to give the scene a bit more light, connecting it to the cemetery and his solitude, his loss. Thanks for the invite.

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