There’d been a sign posted on the tree,
inviting along all on the dusty road
to a baptism and barbeque.
It was a Saturday afternoon,
golden, cloudless, and hot.
The dog needed a drink as it was,
so need and curiosity drew us half a mile
through the grove to the baptismal bank.
When I saw the little crowd in the river
I wondered at their dryness.
Surely they were there to be wet?
But though the water streamed audibly
over rocks, pebbles, pinkish sand and
the sparkling of quartz
it didn’t seem to touch them.
They remained, they stood in the bed,
and some of them dipped themselves in and under
and through the current,
yet not a drop fell
nor ran down their cheeks from raised crowns.
I could smell the earthy richness of the soil,
the emerald ferns, the flowers of the river bank.
The dog was refreshed, and looked up at me,
awaiting a nod
that he might go into the stream himself.
Good water indeed!
And yet it seemed somehow malfunctioning–
one crucial property, misbehaving.
It would not get those people wet.
Long was I standing, marvelling at this
display of non-ness.
My forehead was tight with brow-furrows
as I thought and thought hard.
The dog, avoiding the bustle,
paddled about upstream.
There was a man in an odd blazer
who talked a lot.
Loud, fast, and a lot,
with a very big smile and big, energetic gesturing hands.
The color and texture of his garment
made up of uneven pinstripes
and pilling wool and
the appearance of flakes.
And it was a long time before I realized that the
coat was coated.
It was dark beneath.
But it had been painted white.
This white was now starting to crack.
But now, at his enthusiastic behest,
folk more and more come into the stream,
talking, laughing, kneeling and dipping.
And still it is as if
the water isn’t there.
And yet it is.
I saw a fish, and a frog.
The water flowed, shone round the one,
shimmered on the latter
as she emerged
and sat on the bank.
The dog followed soon after,
gave his coat a good shake
before settling damp in the grass,
gazing contentedly at the daisy
before his nose.
He’d smell like the river later,
even after the summer sun had dried his fur.
It wasn’t the water after all?
But these were animals.
Ah, it was the people.
They would not get wet.
I looked and thought,
wondered… if there was an explanation.
But this was it—they would not.