Poet, Playwright, Workshop Facilitator
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Kelly's News Blog

Listen: "By Water, By Fire": Reading my Queen Anne's Lace prose poem

Because it's August, and Queen Anne's Lace blooms so gorgeously now, on my daily walks I'm reminded of this prose poem I wrote some years ago about being baptized at the same time as my daughter, and how, on a walk with her, years later, in the meadow at ten, the wet lace inspired this poem. She's twenty-six now. From where I stand now, I see how much it all came true: how we stumbled, how we fell. All these years later, I'm grateful for this prose I culled from that meadow, foreshadowing. I wouldn't alter a word.

By Water, By Fire

It has been raining for days and in the meadow everything upturned is holding water. Barefoot, we slip on sequined blades of grass; wildflowers bloom in crowds on stems as long as your legs. Oh, what is this most beautiful flower I have ever seen? you ask, looking up at me, the lace framing your face like the ring around the neck of your baptismal dress.

You were two then, in the sanctuary, where I stood beside you in my beige silk suit, ready to be baptized too, even at that late date, because rites of passage - like wildflowers - are only awesome accidents. You didn’t know when I was a girl I heard my grandmother swear to her daughter, I love all my grandchildren the same, even the ones who were never baptized. And I saw my mother’s eyes catch her mother’s lie.

In the candlelit church, you seemed too innocent to grasp the mysterious wounds of mothers and daughters. But, when the minister pronounced, Somehow, some way, some day you will be caught – you seized my leg and whispered, I don’t want to be caught, Mommy! Bumped, the altar candle rocked and swung and snuffed its flame against my shoulder. A stream of black wax bled down my sleeve before the candle crashed to the floor. After the service, I showed the minister my scar and said, Now I have been baptized by water and fire.

The truth is I cannot help that you will stumble and fall and lose your way and so will I. But here in the meadow this day, at ten, you look up at me still certain I can solve the mystery of beautiful things. I bend my face in the basin of moist, white thread. It’s Queen Ann’s Lace, I say.
— First published in "*82 Review," 2013; published in "All These Cures," 2014, Lit House Press ©Kelly DuMar

All photos and text ©Kelly DuMar 2018

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