Wintry Immersion, Mountmellick, 1978

in the non-conformist churches that i attended as a teenager it was customary to see people being baptised, full immersion style. on my brother becoming a Christian, he decided to be baptised in a local river on his birthday…which is in January. there was deep snow and the water was very cold…


rural riverbank somewhat snow-smudged;

shivering, my believer-brother judged

water temperature: full immersion

his wintry baptism, new testament version.

our announcement to small-town locals

nailed to a pole, crude wording vocal:

“believers baptism” – onlookers arrived,

their Sunday winter walks quite contrived.

Held steady-footed in the river’s flow

the baptiser asked, did my brother know

Jesus as his personal saviour –

did he reject sin and change his behaviour?

On affirmation, my brother disappeared

underwater, on resurfacing this poet cheered;

ego-drowned, buried & then resurrected,

not quite the show the curious expected.

clothes fully soaked, hair water-slicked,

on cue, news cameraman’s shutter clicked,

then testimony in shivering voice spoken

eccentric image published, prejudices broken.


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