Christine Byrne

Delilah Miklave
June 22, 2024 Byrne Christine

Delilah Miklave


You think that you know baptism
Because you were the undertaker’s daughter
you grew up in a funeral home and had a lazy eye
that your father tried to focus with latex round bandages
You think that you know baptism
Because the kids would shout at you
Delilah Mikgrave! Delilah Mikgrave!
when you walked through the school parking lot
Because you saved moths, crickets, other dead things, in your bedtable
preserved in casts of resin
Because your mother treated cast iron, salted it, dried it on the low burner
winking, it’s good to be a little seasoned
You think that you know baptism
Because those kids trapped you, when you were younger, in a revolving glass door,
jammed with rubber erasers, you were forgotten there
And Johnny
walked both of your bicycles home after, swerving all over
whoops! whoops! Johnny,
who you touched in the woods at fifteen,
who caught a cricket in a styrofoam
lunchcup to bring you
Baptism, that’s what you think about, when you see him in the water,
what he told you sitting on the freightcar—
You think that you know baptism
Because you were baptized
like your father and your grandfather
standing downstairs in your house over bodies washed for burial
their hair combed, their arms crossed over their chests
Your father waiting
to have the film growing on his eyes scraped,
Because you watched him open, alone, the cabinets
touching your mother’s old coffee cup, the cutting board red stained from meat
Because your mother
she told you, all those years ago, living is a kind of curling
peeling the patch from the soft skin of your eye
to curl and uncurl
like how you used to cup gardenflowers, pressing a little bit—
then a little bit harder—
In the same church in the same town, your sacraments, your first confession
bless you bless you bless you bless you God bless you
Because you let Isaiah watch you at the lake, stripping naked
except for your green underwear, which you wished were smaller, less girlish,
without the little fabric rose at the elastic center
lowering your stomach, your nipples, until the water
was just above your mouth
You were born here and you’re going to die here
which makes you think you know
why the men and the scentdogs and the schoolboys and the mothers
your father squinting his cataracts
your sister leaning forward in her aim
Isaiah with the preacher shoving forward through the town crowd
all gathered around to see


Johnny washed up in the river

Christine Byrne is currently an MFA candidate at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she won the John Logan Poetry Prize. Her most recent work appears or is forthcoming in The New England Review, Best New Poets, Poet Lore, The Journal, and elsewhere.