His Book of Bread

I promised myself that if this poem “came back” after this flurry of submissions, I would share it here. So, even though I had two of my older poems picked up recently, this one is now yours. It was written probably in 2005, toward the beginning of my One Bad Poem years.  


His Book of Bread

“Those who cannot love themselves...eat a terrible bread.” —W. S. Merwin

On the first page, his mother
hands him a thick slice of bread
warm from the oven, her fresh-
churned butter melting
into it. The book remembers bread
but also all he’d like to forget, 
bedwetting, crooked teeth.
Bread holds together
whatever plot there is.
Married, he becomes a man
with grip-lock lids
on the garbage cans. He cuts 
the crusts from his daughter’s toast.
He grows older. The daughter
grows up. His wife never shares
his essential hunger. 
He moves from whole grains
to whatever’s marked down.
In the later chapters, 
he suspects that more chaos
would have made a better story, 
like a living yeast
that makes the bread rise. 
But now he’s on the final page.
Wind rattles the shutters. 
In the sky, a new moon
chews white clouds. 
He sets the book aside. 
The room fills with the aroma of bread. 

—Bethany Reid