The bishop, the only black man in this Southern church,
carries the golden shepherd’s crook, lights
the candle that lights another, and on,
until the church is filled with yellow, wavering light,
cheap wax threatening to gutter out, the hot smell
of material in resistance to becoming flame.
Grease of miracles,
beads of melt, snake to the cardboard holders.
The door gusts shut against the night’s bonfire.
We’re left this broken alleluia with bells,
this stumbling along to benediction,
willing ourselves to be finished,
and never finished.
The year’s great candle is dipped in the fount.
Wax cools on the marble-cold waters.
The lector raises her arms.
Babies, come to be baptized, cry against the hour,
against their stiff Easter swaddling, against the incense
that scorches the waxy scent of small children’s hands
carefully coloring the Lamb and lilies.
The language of arrival
presses down, nearly burying joy in its assurances
while the body on the cross
strains up, as any dancer can see,
burning this spring night’s dark myrrh.