Poetry Advent

Thanks to bread (432x640)Joanna Streetly for including one of my poems in her poetry advent calendar, a non-chocolate, non-saccharine look at the closing of the year.

The poem is one I wrote many years ago now after a morning making the bread we give to friends and family every Christmas – we call it Driftwood Fossil Bread.

The poem is below: the recipe is below that. And the drawing is by Hans Saefkow – first published in Northword Magazine.




Every year this time

we get out the same battered bowlevery year this time
rescued, I remember, from the ruins
of an anorexic life. We use the same
measuring cups to scoop the flour
out of the special drawer
Emil built. This year, as always,
I knead it on his wooden counter –
there’s an old picture of Michael in an apron
and chef’s hat, grinning at the camera
one shoulder against my hip as we stand together
rolling out pastry at this counter –
and sometimes I have to admit
I wonder what other life I could have
lived in what other way.

But as my hands sink deep into the dough
the flour does not remember all this.
A few months ago, it was a tasseled head
bending in the wind somewhere.
And the water. Who knows what cloud it brought
to fall as rain or snow somewhere up high?
Who knows how long it rested in those sacred places
before seeping into an alpine freshet
missed by my thirsty mouth one summer when I bent to drink
or wash the sweat out of my eyes? Who knows what gravity
brought it to our well?
The air, well it could have travelled the whole world
before it was breathed in
and exhaled into the softened yeast
that will raise this bread.

And so I bend over the scarred wood
hands deep in the beginnings
each of us made new

The recipe

Take about six cups of tap water, potato water or creek water and heat it to yeast-ready temperature.

Pour it over about 1/2 c. each sunflower seeds and flax seeds.

Add 1 T. salt, 4 T. sugar or honey and 1 T. regular yeast. You can also add up to 1/2 c. oil if you like.

Let sit about 10 minutes then beat with a whisk.

Add some whole wheat flour (maybe 4 c. – I never measure) and whisk it in.

Keep adding flour  – you decide how much unbleached and how much whole wheat – 1/2 and 1/2 is about right for us.

When you can’t stir anymore in, start kneading it right in the big bowl you initially chose, until it’s not horribly sticky.

Turn out on a floured counter and knead about 10 minutes, adding more flour as needed, until it has that nice springy feel.

Let rise about an hour.

Punch down, form into 4 loaves and let rise about 1/2 hour.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for about 1/2 hour or until done.

Cool on a rack. (But don’t let it cool too long before you cut that first slice and slather it with butter…

Good luck.

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