I grind my grandmother’s bones to a powder
add a little water from the blue glacier
spit and stir, knead in dry leaves
the yellow fat from new cream
blood of the Northern Pike and sand
carried down to the valley from the mountain.
The dough is stiff. Hidden lumps
break at my touch into splays of dust —
scents of cedar, rain on hot pavement,
curling smoke from a Drum cigarette,
the habits of black flies, Orion’s
bow — a consistency of awe and recollection.
In the hour it takes for the bread to rise
glaciers retreat and leave behind
skirts of rubble, a swamp of bones,
old trees fallen, turned to coal.
Mountains are split by the brush of the river,
bridges hang webbed across the water.
I shape the loaf with a roll and even pressure
of hands accustomed to morning prayer.
Score the taut skin with the edge of a knife —
North and South, the passing flights
of birds. Coiled shells of fossils embedded
inside sleep uninterrupted.
The bread bakes on a board in the sun,
stout, flecked with salt and cheeks burned.
Sweat glistens like dew on my skin
and is taken up on a circling wind.
I break the crust and eat, exhale —
every breath I lose I breathe again.
Published online January 01 2011.
From To Speak (The Muses’ Company, 2010). Reprinted with permission.
Michelle Elrick is a poet and fiction writer from British Columbia and Manitoba. Her first book, a collection of poems titled To Speak, was published by The Muses’ Company in 2010. In addition, her work has appeared in a handful of literary journals and been performed at festivals and events in Vancouver, Winnipeg, London, Kingston and Belfast. She is currently deep in a draft of her novel, Dust House, surfacing on occasion to play the banjo and walk the dog.