American Baptism

As an American, Mother sees the ocean
for the first time in October. In Beirut,

she used the brook behind her house
to wash dishes because a misguided bomb

had ripped the copper pipes underneath
the sidewalks. Today, she stands on a pier,

stares at the faded blue of Santa Monica,
and remembers bloated bodies floating

on the Mediterranean. Her legs quiver
as she climbs down a rickety ladder and dips

her left foot into the water. The hesitant
sunset washes her skin with hues of lilac.

Her son calls her back on deck. In America,
only fools trust the oil-stained coastline.

In America, everyone drives a Cadillac.


Shahé Mankerian is the principal of St. Gregory Hovsepian School in Pasadena and the co-director of the L.A. Writing Project. He is the recipient of the Los Angeles Music Center’s BRAVO Award. In 2016, Altadena Poetry Review nominated him for the Pushcart Prize. Recently, Shahé received the 2017 Editors’ Prize from MARY: A Journal of New Writing.