Note: This poem came out of a project for Sonoma Slow Food in 2004: A Taste for Art: Celebrating the Art in Artisanal, in which ten teams of food artisans and artists were commissioned to create together, culminating in an auction and dinner at Barn Diva in Healdsburg. Proceeds from the auction went to replacing soda machines in Sonoma elementary schools with juice drinks. I was paired with baker Kathleen Weber of Della Fattoria in Petaluma. For the auction, my husband Paulo and I created a broadside of the poem with one of his monoprints.
Finding Good Bread
To be sure you’ll find
good bread, drive until the stars
in the constellation
made up of an old Cadillac
begin to dim their headbeams,
to a place where Orion’s belt surrenders
its sword for a bread paddle.
Just where the swell of California hills
shudders in pleasure at the
coming heat. You’ll know the freeway
exit by the raven that unfolds
out of the sky with a single flap and lands
on the asphalt, singing, singing
of the dream time, of the computed darkness.
We come to this place knowing we make
war on our children. We have it in our hearts
always, waking ourselves absolute &
grieving, startled as we rouse into the wide
dream of day, the enormity of the world spark
flush against our bones, to this place where dough
is slung to the radio raving at dawn’s soft
edge, where bakers hold aloft tattoos of extinct
and mythical animals, wearing much-washed T-shirts
with worn lettering detailing the sins of the fathers
and the children’s mad bliss at their rare fate. This is old.
Wheat. Leavening. No weariness now, we singe our
nerves on all we’ve ever known, the birthday
of the kind self wearing sunglasses made up of small
mirrors. Otherwise, wheat is grown on shallow roots,
all chemical. While not so many in Germany, in the
old country, allergic to wheat. It’s not wheat we’re
allergic to. It’s the light falling hard between fertile
soil and housing development. It’s touching
knowledge in a fragrant bun, a fragile eternity tucked
between two leavened surfaces moist
with love and bitten.
from the book, A Grammar of Longing