: Baptism :

an excerpt by John Warner Smith


One Sunday night we swayed

in a holy wind, wearing Super Fly

shirts and Eleganza shoes

we had seen at the Palace Theatre.

Life reeled in front of milk crate squats,

between reefers and the poison

we gulped out of cheap port wine

mixed with fruit juice and spit.

Hitched a ride with a Viet Nam vet

turned hustler, whose Brougham,

half-primed, half-painted, choked

like a bleeding hog, blasting funk

from a plywood, shag-covered box:

Curtis, Santana, and our favorites—

soft horns and violins, high tenors

telling of broken hearted men

and love we dreamt of making.

Peach-fuzzed and celluloid,

we cruised over Cyclops' bridge,

crept alleyways that stunk of piss,

and stood at a slut's bedside.

Would-be-gangbangers, candles

flickering on a frosted cake, we circled

her nakedness like a prayer vigil—

Awestruck. Eyes bulging. Legs

buckling on a thin sheet of lake ice.