Early spring mist sashays off the river.
We clap and sing single file down the bank.
In the water our gowns go translucent
and our skins’s so thin we watch
each other’s hearts pulse. When our turn
comes we’re plunged backwards,
held under long enough we wonder
if ever the air will fill our lungs again
or maybe being full of eternal love’s enough
and this is the test we knew was coming?
Before our throats seize we’re gasping
at the gift of breath in our mouths.
Now we are sanctified, saved.
It does not matter for what.
Physical pain has a limit, they say,
and we will not rot due to
a lack of belief. The older saints
warm our skin and whisper: have faith
in the river, in the mist, in those
that lead us toward light. We shudder
while the herald holds friends and family
under, each beneath the water longer
than the one before, the hosannas loud enough
to deafen whoever guards the gates
of Heaven. All morning the shepherd
shocks faith into his people. We cheer
as they drown again and again and again.
SM Stubbs helps run a bar in Brooklyn. He is the recipient of a scholarship to Bread Loaf Writers Conference and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best New Poets. Winner of the 2019 Rose Warner Poetry Prize from The Freshwater Review, he was also the runner-up in both the Atticus Review Poetry Contest 2019 and the Cagibi 2019 Macaron Prize. His work has appeared in Poetry Northwest, The Normal School, Puerto del Sol, The Pinch, Cherry Tree, Carolina Quarterly, The Bookends Review, among others, with work forthcoming in Iron Horse Literary Review and New Ohio Review.