April 2013

El Bautismo de la Gringa

I had always loved the way my skin burnt in the sun,
blushed red and even sometimes blistered. I loved
the way my ears would only let chunks
of Spanish in. I grew to love the feeling of wrinkled
hands on my blonde hair, hoping to catch
a little luck from my locks. Sometimes,
they’d even pinch the pinkest part
of my cheeks, smiling a viejita smile.

So I didn’t mind, standing
in front of the congregation – after accepting
Jesucristo in my corazón,
the preacher folded my scrawny white arms
across my little girl chest and asked me for my testimonio.

All I could say was ¡te amo Dios!,
let the water overcome me amidst the whispers
and hushed laughter. Es la gringa, qué bonita

In el nombre de Jesucristo, I breathed in the thick water –
emerged with hungry lungs, hiding my blue eyes
behind squinted eyelids. On the waving face of water,
a blurred image arose – a little body trembling,
wrapped tight in an auburn towel and the dark arms
of a preacher who kissed her forehead clean.

—Katherine Hoerth

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