Marc Alan Di Martino
What Happened at the Baptism
The infant is held aloft, above the priest’s head
and shoulders. “Our trophy!” he cries, to
applause and tears from the congregation. The
baby’s penis looks like a tiny candy in its
wrapper, placed awkwardly between two fresh
human legs. It begins to cry uncontrollably, to
shake. It has been welcomed to the world in
which it will live until its body gives out. Like
all living things, it will die the worse for wear.
I’d never imagined anyone would ask me to be
the godfather of their child. Little me. But it
happened. It happened that tradition called for
such a thing, and we were to answer that call.
How did I feel about answering it? About
standing in front of a congregation whose god
I didn’t believe in, for whom I was a hostile
representative of the parent company? They’d
stare at me in disbelief. He’s cleverly covered his
horns, they’d whisper. They wear those little hats
to cover them, don’t they? But he can’t wear a hat
in here. In here he’s exposed. And now he’ll be the
godfather of this child. Heaven help us.
I’m not stupid—I didn’t let it get that far. I did
my homework. I told the parents I couldn’t go
through with it, couldn’t renounce Satan
because I didn’t believe in Satan. Go through the
motions, they said. Like we do. Like everyone
does. I can’t do that, you know. I said that to
them. I can’t lie to people like that. We do it all
the time, came the answer. And you will too. Just
don’t…embarrass us. We don’t care about your
horns. Just don’t make us look bad, you little shit.
So there was an ultimatum. Nice Latin word.
Or else what. My wife said just go through with
it and let’s move on. You take religion too
seriously, she said. You’re right, but someone
should I said. They want us to renounce Satan.
They want us to what? You heard me: Satan.
Really? I read the rite online. It’s part of the
ceremony. They think I have horns. No they
don’t, they just don’t understand you. I can’t
do it. We can’t. Say no.
We explained. We were diplomatic, level-
headed, even-handed. You little fuck, I’ll
have your head on a pike. Knock you off your
high horse. Your time will come—you’ll pay in
blood. So much for diplomacy.
There are people who think we drink the blood
of Christian babes, baked lovingly into our
esoteric flatbreads. Babes like this, with their
tiny candy-wrapper penises, peeing on the
heads of priests as they acquire eternal
possession of their souls. They applaud, cry,
celebrate, eat, fuck, make more babies for more
priests, and pass around the hat for money in
the middle of it all.
Don’t talk to me about redemption.
Go fuck yourself you little kike asshole. I’ll hang
you from the roof of your home with a rope made
of your own intestines.
I’d say it went about as well as could be
Marc Alan Di Martino's work has appeared in Rattle, the New Yorker, Baltimore Review, Palette Poetry and many other places, and is forthcoming in the anthologies Unsheathed: 24 Contemporary Poets Take Up the Knife and What Remains: The Many Ways We Say Goodbye. His first collection, Unburial, will be published in 2020 by Kelsay Books. He currently lives in Perugia, Italy with his family where he works as a teacher and translator.