Argyle shat himself and, truth be told,
but for the mess of it, the purging was
no bad thing for the body corporal.
Would that the soul were so thoroughly cleansed,
by squatting and grunting supplications.
Would that purgatories and damnations
could be so quickly doused and recompensed,
null and voided in the name of mercy.
He made for Goleen and a proper laving
of his crotch and loins and paltry raiments.
Outstretched on the strand, his body’s immersion
in the tide was not unlike a christening:
two goats for godparents, two herring gulls
perched in the current his blessed parents,
a fat black cormorant the parish priest
anointing him with chrisms and oils,
pronouncing him reborn, renamed, renewed
in the living waters of baptism.
In every dream he dreamt after bathing,
the guilt and guile of his sin-eating
and all accrued perditions were absolved
and he was named after an apostle
or martyr or evangelist or saint,
welcome everywhere, forgiven everything.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.