How to Baptize a Child in Philadelphia, PA by Mike Zimmerman

First, clasp the crown of his head
like a football, a hot pretzel,
like the accidental bird flown
in you forgot to let go.

Say “you can be anything.”
Let him drink soda at breakfast;
read him a story at night.
Let this story be about

A car or a dog or a fish.
Say, “I wish you didn’t
ask questions at bed.”
Turn out the light.

If you’re going to the dollar store, bring him with you.
Let him buy Mountain Dew and sour lemons.

Help him with his homework.
When he asks, “we’re mostly water? how
can that be true?” Tell him, “because it’s
in the book.” You don’t know the particulars
Except that Jesus walked on water,
The Delaware must be a sacred thing
despite the bodies in cold clothes
on the news. Baptism happens in water.

If he finds a blue jay with a broken wing, tell him
it serves those Jays right for beating the Phillies.

When hell comes up in church, he’ll ask
“What’s revelation? What’s sin?” Show him
The steel mill again. Tell him, “Son,That time of reckoning is not for us.”


Mike Zimmerman is a writer of short stories and poetry, as well as a middle school Writing teacher in East Brooklyn. His previous work has been published in Cutbank, A & U Magazine, and The Painted Bride. He is the 2015 recipient of the Oscar Wilde Award from Gival Press and a finalist for the Hewitt Award in 2016. He finds inspiration and ideas from the people and places he loves. Mike lives in New York City with his husband and their cat.

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