Baptism

There are days that I feel swollen with with the past.  And I can’t move past it…can’t move on until I etch it out rhythmically, even if it needles and mutilates this aging decay–bloated, rigid, and inflamed. My skin is creased now, my sprinkle of freckles grown to thousands melded together, my teeth shifted, my laugh lines permanent.  My knees pop and creak, though my muscles are strong. And I just want to dip back in for a time.  Not just nostalgia, but watered truth that has been built around my feet and I walk on continuously.  I imagine pearls of rain stamping out ruinous fire, slipping over the scorched earth in winsome melody–listen…

Gentle,

putting out that raging blaze of doubt, weakness, uncertainty.  I need to recall that prestige and splendor that even the unassuming, lowborn can feel.

~

The shoes squeeze tight with the double knot of the laces.

Crystalline white puffs floating in the eery, pre-dawn air taken into the lungs with dragging gulps that split and hurt and suffocate, but I

keep pushing

and going and

don’t stop.

In that cinder block, run-down, carpeted gymnasium with the yellow-dim lights we ran suicides, fast feet, and burpees while holding back retching,

 sweat dripping, dripping,

as I’m heaving, heaving,

hands on my smooth knees.

Plank kicks and pushups until dirt is mixed into carpet burn wounds and ground into palms and bruises are ripening to purple, clotted blood.  All at the surface, raging to be heard and spilled and seen and grabbed and covered–but I push it out in smooth exhale, filling my lungs to burst and release.  Wash.  Coach’s voice calls sharply as a whip. You feel no pain! And there can be no tears, just fear or anger and tenacity that rage down low, ready to erupt.

There are no witnesses to view this agonizing preparation, except those beside me in the bowels of this fight.

Why do I love it?

It breathes in me still.

Muscles ache and harden, grip and spasm, and sweat seeps into that shifting ball like transporting memoirs through a company of finger tips, weeping into that floor and into that game. Those faces and voices that I can remember in a second. Hips sway and legs shuffle, and feet fly. No longer is there fear, but an adrenal surge, and a thrust of light like slow motion.  You know how to do this.  These bodies moving fluid the next day across a lacquered court with tread squeak and voices call signal to

pass, and hand, toe pivot, and quads–jump, slam.

We are of baptism, of belonging and attachment and struggle.  The heart in my chest still aches for it, so I run suicides, run stairs, and sweat to remember.

This body is now keenly felt — swimming magnetic volts that pulse through my bones and yet I fight to feel that old glory, because this is a fight of a different kind.   Oddly, or perhaps ironically, the mind is clearer and tougher than in those old days when my body was quick. Coach is still in my mind, standing with a stopwatch telling us to get up, to enter the collective conflict, this battle clash. Run to struggle, and push, and heave, and gulp, and close my eyes as the rain clouds open up and envelope me in ablution.  I hover from past to present, my heart firmly fixed, trodden and warm in both.

It is a nobility, an elite reverence. To belong to more than one place, and time, and people.  Forming in these separate bodies a sloppy, disheveled gathering that is pushing,  pulling, and yelling against one another before harmonizing, adjusting to reconcile, a fluid soul of One.  It was and is a sacred admission, a sacrament of adoption. And then we all had to lay aside and take up mission in order to take those liturgies to a future, to spouse, to children, to self.

That rain like like a

-baptism-

washing over the curves of my face, those Spirit-words, let there be rain, that soothe, cool, and  bring it back unpolluted, and God saw that it was good. Because we live washed in blood and water– alive, and created anew while our feet are still firmly fixed in the rot of the earth. Someday the earth and this body will be resurrected, whole.

 God speaking and awakening in my overrun, pillaged frame, bleached within and without– these inaudible sufferings, these triumphant joys, infused together.

 

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