Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


Conversation with Phillis Wheatley #2

Tell me about your baptism she asked.

I rose out of the water, a caught fish—slippery,
gaping for breath, brand new with righteousness.

I walked down to the frothing whirlpool,
Pastor Lonnie—a white man in a white robe,

extended his hands and helped me down the steps.
The congregation watched as I answered his questions:

Yes. Yes. Yes. Jacuzzi-warm water gurgled and spun
as his white robe spread around my little circumference,

holy creamer. He put his hand on my nose, pinched
my breath. I did not close my eyes as he buried me

under the water—under the water I heard muffled
shouting, under the water I saw Pastor Lonnie's face

ripple in thirds. He tipped my body back, lifted me up
and out from the wet coffin to the defeaning resound

of clapping and yelling from the church. My hair back
to curls, my face like the face of my birth when I was

cut from my mother—terrified and ready to scream.

Credit


From I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood. Copyright © 2018 by Tiana Clark. Used with the permission of University of Pittsburgh Press.

Author


Tiana Clark

Tiana Clark is the author of I Can't Talk About the Trees Without the Blood (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018).

Date Published: 2018-09-13

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/conversation-phillis-wheatley-2