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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 8, Number 1, March 2014


Donna Buck R
Beaumont, California, USA


sunlight slicing
a crested wave—
cry of curlews

Front row at St. James church. Before me, the gold font below the altar. We're here for the christening of my new niece. My sister-in-law and my brother have chosen me as godmother. Me! A lapsed Catholic! "You're spiritual," she says. "You'll always be there for her." I'm honored.

Beside me she holds the sleeping baby in her embroidered white gown. Also in the front row with us are others whom I assume are her relatives. My brother has married into an extended Filipino family and I'm learning the culture. The huge family gatherings. Pancit, adobo, foods I've grown to love. Enjoying the sound of my sister in law's village dialect. Today I'm about to become a ninang, godmother.

The priest calls the godmothers and godfathers to come forward. As an English teacher I note the error, the plural mother and father, when there is only one of each. But I see that now there are five men and another four women gathered around the baptismal font. I turn to whisper to a woman on my left. "This is only for the two godparents."

"Uh huh," she nods.

"No, really. The priest only wants each godmother and father right now." The woman says something to another woman beside her, in Ilocano.

"It's O.K. ," she says, and takes my hand. Turns out that in this wise culture, the baby gets up to ten godparents.

During the ceremony each of us pours drops of holy water on the forehead of my now squalling niece. As she squirms in her mother's arms, she opens her eyes and looks at me with a fiercely combative expression. This, I think, will be a woman to be reckoned with.

I squeeze the hand of two other godparents. In solidarity with the solemn but daunting task ahead.

dew melting
on a December rose—
Ave Maria



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