Food Poetry: Bread, by Linda Pastan

Published by Friday, June 10, 2011 Permalink 0
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after Levchev


“It seems to be the five stages
of yeast, not grief,
you like to write about,”
my son says,
meaning that bread
is always rising
and falling, being broken
and eaten, in my poems.

And though he is only half serious,
I want to say to him
“bread rising in the bowl
is like breath rising in the body;”
or “if you knead the dough
with perfect tenderness,
it is like gently kneading flesh
when you make love.”
Baguette . . . pita . . . pane . . .
Challah . . . naan: bread is
the universal language, translatable
on the famished tongue.

Now it is time to open
the package of yeast
and moisten it with water,
watching for its fizz,
its blind energy–proofing
it’s called, the animate proof
of life. Everything
is ready: salt, flour, oil.
Breadcrumbs are what lead
the children home.


First published in Ploughshares, now in Traveling Light, W.W. Norton, 2011.


Linda Pastan has published 13 volumes of poetry, most recently Traveling Light. Two of these books have been finalists for the National Book Award. Pastan’s poems have appeared in many journals, including The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, The Nation, and The Georgia Review.  She has been Poet Laureate of Maryland, and in 2003 she won the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for lifetime achievement.

This poem was contributed by our Poetry Editor, Christina Daub.

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1 Comment
  • Jim Chevallier
    August 14, 2011

    “…If I bear burdens
    they begin to be remembered
    as gifts, goods, a basket
    of bread that hurts
    my shoulders but closes me
    in fragrance. I can
    eat as I go. ”

    from Stepping Westward
    by Denise Levertov