Bread


My daughter-in-law is baking bread for dinner.
The smell of it arabesques through the house like music
and out to the spring-damp lawn where crocuses rear
their helmets of mauve steel from underground.

She wipes the dusting of flour from round arms speckled
with a faint mottling of freckles, peach-colored, rose,
smooths the silk of her auburn hair. We set the table:
her grandmother's blueberry bowl, my mother's crystal.

I picture, as in cartoons, our forbears, tense
on opposite sides of the Channel, fifteen eighty-eight,
Renaissance script in bubbles above their heads:
Spanish war-cries, English curses, the Great Armada.

Remote in their rusty passions now as in armor,
perhaps they dreamed us, but they were like us, living,
afraid of the cannon, afraid the enemy's eyes
would follow them into death as deep as forever.

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


Rhina P. Espaillat, Where Horizons Go, New Odyssey Press, 1998.