restricted access Proxy Baptism
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Proxy Baptism

It happens each day.         Black water scallops like obsidian. I begin

to count backward       in a dory, between oars, duffle coat draped stiff

from my shoulders. I’m unsure         of the time,     of what I’ll do—the lake         of blue petals below. Over the bow my fingers         brush water,

leave small wakes.       I make a mess of things. A bird sings from the bank

like a needle. Something lodges         like a pit     in my throat. My mouth

pries open, oblivious. Willow         juts through my teeth     like bees, and I forget

my body, my hands, like an argument,       while, at the river’s edge,     families hold candles close to their moonlit       nightgowns, as they whisper when they turn from me, [End Page 115]

as I empty     past them, try to tell them the war is over       (though it isn’t) and wake a deer bent down       inside me—     I’m alone.

      I believe I’m alone           when I’m alone. I cannot move, and a woman         is taking my hair. [End Page 116]

Justin Boening

Justin Boening is the author of Self-Portrait as Missing Person, which was selected by Dara Wier for a Poetry Society of America’s National Chapbook Fellowship. He’s currently finishing his first full-length collection with support from Bucknell University, where he’s the Roth Resident at the Stadler Center for Poetry.