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Shabbat

for Peter and Lisa

 

 

We covered our eyes with our hands

and repeated the sacred words that Peter said,

blessing the pomegranate juice, blessing

 

the challah bread. And when we were done

with the prayer, we removed our hands

from our eyes and the candlelit world

 

was surprisingly bright. Such a simple faith,

kindness. The willingness to invite another in,

to make them bread, to offer them soup,

 

to say to the other, Here. Feast. Rest. To share

ancient stories and offer new wisdom.

To pass the braided bread, hand to hand,

 

and eat it together. To listen to each other

until the candles had burned through all their wax.

To continue to listen after the light goes out.

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Two Loaves

IMG_4898

 

 

Oh, this alchemy of wheat,

salt, water, yeast and heat.

Something so holy about the art

 

of transforming grain into loaves,

how the scent of the baking infuses

the whole house with earthy incense.

 

I whisper poems into the bread,

sing to it as it rises, as it rests.

I think of every other woman,

 

every other man who, for over 14,500 years,

has kneaded and shaped the living dough.

I imagine all of us, flour on our cheeks,

 

pressing our hands into service,

all of us certain of one thing:

we are called to feed each other.

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It was this day, eight-nine years ago,

that Otto Frederick Rohwedder,

a jeweler from Davenport, Iowa,

got to see his invention in action—

yes, in Chillicothe, Missouri, a baker

used the bread slicer. Everyone said

it wouldn’t sell. Everyone said

the bread would go stale. Everyone

said the idea would fail. It’s compelling,

sometimes, what everyone says.

But sometimes, perhaps like Otto,

I hear the voice beneath the others.

It tells me to believe in improbable things.

Like poems changing the world.

Like Keatsian love. Like the immeasurable

pleasure that comes when the lever

goes down and all through the kitchen

floats the warm and earthy scent of toast,

the morning improving two slices at a time.

 

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Today it’s the bread
that reminds me
how human I am—
how I want people
to like the bread
that I baked, how I hope
they can taste
the organic grain
that I ground myself
for the pleasure
of grinding it, sure,
how I can get the texture
just the way I like it,
but also for some small
way it makes me feel
as if I am a better person
because I have ground
the flour. Oh it is
so tricky, the way
I start to believe
that if the people I love
like the bread I bake
that they will like me more.
As if rye and winter wheat
have anything to do
with who I am.
But I do not despise
the bread for this. Its taste
is the taste of harvest,
sunshine and rain,
patience and earth.
The bread wants nothing
and nourishes despite.
Nor do I despise myself
for the longing to be loved.
Well, not much.
So human, I tell myself
to think we’re not enough.
Of course we’re enough,
Of course. Just as we are.
Still, I can’t help but wonder
if I made the butter, too,
well, then they might really,
really love me.

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six

too many to count
petals on the orchard floor
he loves me?

*

rusted lock
in the heart’s back pocket
a spare key

*

snow on the ridges
come spring what else
will be missing?

*

almost asleep
these hands still kneading
soft dough

*

he talks
and talks and talks and talks
about listening

*

no temple bells
still the crow goes on
about awe, awe

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