As Christ in the Wilderness

by Sara Moore Wagner


I wade out into the dense mat of hydrilla,
caught around my propeller legs because
the lake calls me to take off my dress, to put on
the white robe of my childhood, the one
I wore into the holier water where a man held
my head under and up: you are changed.
How wet-headed I was then, holding my arms
up dead to my sin, and what a sin
I had died to. The grating roar of adolescence
blooming red between my legs, poppy,
the bright girdle coming out of the sky
like a halo. Just look at that naked
shoreline. How a girl like me could be a
shore. How the sucking of each wave
calls me to cast off, to abandon it. I lost
my faith like I lost the flatness of my waist,
those boney knees I’d fall to every
morning, next to the bed, next to the river,
next to the church whose carpets still
mildew from all that salvation splashing
all those girls being born and born again.
And I am tempted to turn invasive, to fill
the water as the spirit fills, to rise up out
of the holler, feet splendid, body

SARA MOORE WAGNER lives in West Chester, OH with her husband and three small children. She is the recipient of a 2019 Sustainable Arts Foundation award, and the author of the chapbook Hooked Through (Five Oaks Press, 2017). Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in many journals including The Cincinnati Review, Tar River Poetry, Harpur Palate, Western Humanities Review, and Nimrod, among others. She has been nominated for a Pushcart prize, and Best of the Net. Find her at

Photo: “I’m alive” by Julien Belli