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bread-making dance

by Channah Shifrin 2 months ago in slam poetry / performance poetry
Runner-Up in Get Comfortable ChallengeRunner-Up in Get Comfortable Challenge
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for my mother

In my sleep I practice the motions:

press out and down with the heel of the hand, fold in half

turn ninety degrees. I turn to the left. She always turns right.

It's time to rise.

I draw her hands on onionskin paper, overlay them over mine:

impossibly soft, pink and yellow and brown, more relaxed here, kneading

than they've ever been in her life.

At the dinner table, they will clench into fists. She carries a heavy suitcase

all the weight of the generations whose hands made bread on

Friday afternoons. I carry it too.

My hands are not so strong, not yet. They cramp and shake and

lose their grip

but they can press and fold

turn and repeat.

So I carry the recipe in my backpack with the travel-sized candle sticks

and whenever I find myself in a kitchen on a Friday afternoon...

It comes to be a part of the character I play.

I take a laptop into a kitchen and make dough while the professor speaks.

They laugh and accept it, after a while. Come to expect it.

Then, a bad night: he curls into my chest in the morning and

I don't know what to do to make it better

so I go into the kitchen while he showers and checks on his mother

pinch some sugar into water

feed the yeast.

And when they come downstairs I am at the counter, kneading

and soon the house smells warm and golden

and I think that maybe everything will be okay.

So at the news of a family tragedy, a broken bone, a broken heart

I pull out the flour and the honey

just like she did all my life.

Because up to my elbows in gluten I am at once eighty-three

preparing to see my grandchildren

and three years old, sitting under the kitchen table with my baby doll and

building blocks

memorizing the movements of my mother's hands

giggling as the smell of yeast tickles my nose

watching, listening,

a strange toddler photosynthesis

wherein my mother's voice and hands and teaching are the sun

and the hollow sound of her knuckles on the brown bottom of the loaves

is water

and I am green and green and growing.

slam poetryperformance poetry

About the author

Channah Shifrin

Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  2. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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Comments (4)

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  • Loryne Andawey2 months ago

    I can almost smell the memories. Thank you for this beautiful poem.

  • Caroline Jane2 months ago

    The nostalgia rolls out of this. Delicious.

  • Cathy holmes2 months ago

    Gorgeous poem. Congrats

  • F Cade Swanson2 months ago

    Beautiful. Thank you!

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