"They say bread is life..."

I just tried making challah for the first time, using a recipe from a book called The Gefilte Manifesto. It smelled so wonderful baking that it took a ridiculous amount of self-control not to eat it the moment it came out of the oven. But I had made it for lunch--my cousin was coming to visit--and I forced myself to wait.

I came to poetry later in life, and I remember the exact poem that made me want to start writing. I was in a class, Short Story and Poetry (I was really there for the short stories), and one day we were forced to pick a book from a bunch scattered on the table, and find a poem to read. My hand fell on a book, Where Horizons Go, by a Rhina P. Espaillat, someone I'd never heard of. I opened the book at random and began to read the poem there, "Bread." It started, "My daughter-in-law is baking bread for dinner."

What? You could write a poem with the prosaic word "daughter-in-law" in it? You could write a poem about something as ordinary, as real, as baking bread? I read on to the end:

Blessed by time that closes all eyes, that rouse flowers,
blessed by law that moulds the dust of soldiers
into the bones of daughters, that kneads old strangers
into the flesh of children like braided challah.

You could write about challah? At that very moment, I fell in love, with Rhina's poetry, with Rhina herself, with the poem, with poetry. Everything else, as they say, is commentary.

p.s. I later met Rhina and now have the honor of calling her a friend.
p.p.s The challah was delicious, though next time I'll experiment with letting it rise a little more on the second rise...

November quiet

Thanksgiving has come and gone, with lots of great family time. Now it's quiet here again, and I pulled out a poetry book to enjoy in front of the fire, From the Box Marked Some Are Missing (Hobblebush Books, 2010), by Charles Pratt. My family and I used to visit Charles and Joan Pratt's orchard, Apple Annie's, and it became a very special place for us. In the poem "November: Sparing the Old Apples," he describes the old trees in the orchard  as "...broken-winged umbrellas/Black sea birds drying angular wings on a rock." The poem ends with him knowing what he should do but can't: "And I put my chainsaw away for another November/As if having endured conveyed some right to endure." There's something both exhausted and strong in that last line that appeals greatly to me.