Baptisms By Fire
by Dennis J Bernstein

Where I grew up, it wasn’t safe
to be a Jew on ash Wednesday.
As soon as the new saints
were blessed and marked
they were back on the crusades.
Every year they beat me
when they could catch me,
but they could never
make me hail Mary!
I could taste the anti-semitism
in a catholic, seven layer cake.
It was Bobby O’Shea’s birthday,
and were dunking for apples
with dimes pressed into their skin.
Mrs. O'Shea was presiding.
When it came my turn, she shoved
my head all the way down in the barrel,
until I came up spitting water.

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