The Elements are Mixed in Childhood

Brenda Hillman

for MK

(an essay in rhyme)

      Our mother was baptized on a kerosene box, our father was baptized in a creek, & we were baptized in a plaster pool while turquoise ripples played around our feet & desert air poofed up to make the long black robe a nylon buffalo. It makes your underpants wet, said our brother. It’s strange to be on fire with sins. This is how the past begins: it is the year of the missile crisis; it is the year of Barbie & Ken. Mama studies ridges in her gloves, the congregation sings a hymn while out in the desert, the worm grows tall & nature is a mixed-up miracle.
                        We strain to see the cross behind our head: not only no penis on Jesus, no Jesus at all. That’s how Baptists like it: the invisible is physical. That’s the way it is, says Walter Concrete in the news. Talking flames get rid of hell. In college we’ll read Emerson; in college we’ll meet Robert Duncan dressed like a bat but we don’t know that. Go ahead, says curlicue, the mind is what you need to make up & why should a child be dressed like a bat, wings flapping up to her sides like that? Bat-at-at-at.
                                          The congregation sings a hymn, they hold the stanzas up-up-up. Mama studies ridges in her gloves; she is our eternal love. Childhood certainly is odd: everything is everything, earth air beauty fire wood water love blood, time is what you need to mix up & what is anything not god. The choir circles the circles; they’re singing to rehearse for glory, fiery stanzas fill our head. That’s why words are round in every story; that’s why we love music and talk to the dead—

Back to top ↑

Sign up for Our Email Newsletter