Weekly Poem Project, writing

Weekly poem project: pantoum #2

I am very late with my second pantoum. In part, it was a casualty of the struggles I’m having with my other writing, the advent of Christmas-present-making season (more on this later), and some late-season allergies. Yuck.

I’ve actually been working on this poem for a while, but could never bring it to an end. This is the problem, I’ve discovered, with the pantoum. Because the lines repeat from stanza to stanza, you feel like you could just go on for ever, like boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past … you get the idea.

Part of the problem may have been that I wanted to choose a subject that could take advantage of the repetitive aspects of the form. So the poem is about something I find very relaxing and meditative, in large part because it is so so repetitive: making bread. But I found that I was going on and on and on with the various steps of the bread-making process, which I can’t imagine anyone, even an avid baker, being very interested in. So the challenge became finding ways to make this poem shorter. I am also, of course, trying to conserve my writerly energies for the book chapter that is really occupying most of my time right now. Writing poetry doesn’t really benefit from efforts to conserve energy, I’ve discovered. So, I’m cutting the poem loose now, before it can drive me (any more) crazy. Now that I reread it in its entirety one last time, I am amused by the irony of the first line, which I set down some 3 weeks ago.


A loaf of bread has few demands.
Some flour, water, a bit of yeast
A dash of salt, some olive oil.
And heat: warm water and an oven.

Some flour, water, a bit of yeast
At first stirred with a spoon, then hands.
Slow warmth readies it for the oven.
But the dough is sticky, wet; too hard

To stir with a spoon, it coats the hands
Monstrous fingers, not dough, but quicksand
Sticky, wet; clinging like a child
It’s hard to think this could be bread.

Monstrous fingers mired in quicksand
Kneading, kneading, till one’s arms ache.
It’s hard to think this could be bread.
Yet in the end, a rest, a rise

Once kneading’s done; now just needing
The oven’s blast to stop the work.
Mixing, kneading, a rest, a rise
And baking; now a golden loaf

Emerges from the oven’s blast.
So soon eaten, just crumbs, the scent
Is all that’s left of the golden loaf.
So much, so little more than air.


4 thoughts on “Weekly poem project: pantoum #2

  1. I love the sensory images in this poem. Wonderfully sticky, yeasty pictures ran through my head while I read it.

    Regarding the never-ending quality of writing, last weekend I saw the Matisse cut-out exhibit at MOMA and was blown away by all the pin holes in his collage papers. He moved every cut out around a million times, and I don’t think he ever considered them finished. I wonder how he’d feel seeing them glued down under glass now.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m not sure why it does my heart so much good to read this about Matisse. But I love it! I bet he was a bread-baker, too. Glad you liked the poem 🙂


  3. Really, really like the last line.
    While Laura was looking at colorful Matisse cut-outs at MOMA, I was studying the mourning attire and jewelry at the Met–jewelry featuring the hair of the dead. Not an art to revive(!)


    1. That Victorian hair jewelry is creepy, indeed. (Was this an exhibit staged to coincide with Halloween?) Apparently, though, it was just as meticulously created as the Matisse cutouts.


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