Wise Poets – Ted Thomas Jr – Baptism

Ted Thomas Jr

Cold wind.
I help my father
into the shower
with his good hand
he grips my arm for support.
Inside he sits like Buddha on a plastic stool
and waits for me
to begin.
I drench him
with warm water,
soap his head, his back, the flabby stomach,
the private parts private no more.

I had not before seen my father’s nakedness,
nor the changing contour of his being,
his growing helplessness.
His brown skin glistens
and I think of him
as a young man on the night of my conception:
Panting, capable, shining with sweat and definition,
the soft hands of my mother grasping his shoulders.
I pat him dry,
he lets me dress him in the white hospital clothes,
oil his hair,
put him to bed
and forgive him.