Flour, Yeast, Salt, Water
By Nikki Moustaki Brandt
These five men’s hands will never reach
to push open the simple door,
whose seams are closed to a wind
that will never whistle between spaces
in the trim. Their eyes will never look
past the brims of one another’s hats.
The sky could be blue or black.
The road could be there or back.
It doesn’t matter. There are five wives
somewhere, stiff in their own kitchens,
eggs never deviled, prunes never
stewed, onions never baked.
Their husbands will never return.
These five men’s coats will never rustle,
their ten boots will never shuffle, their arms
will never feel the heft of simple bread.
They will stand in this line forever.
Their noses are never cold, necks never
pained, stomachs never empty—but heavy
as the door, beyond which is a trick
of bread and bakers and the scent
of yeast and the simple voices of women
with flour on their hands and faces,
who will never say: Good morning, George
and Liam. Good afternoon, Robert and John.
Here, Clarence, take an extra loaf for your kids.
I’m sorry we don’t have more to give.
After “Depression Bread Line” by George Segal
Nikki Moustaki Brandt is the recipient of a national endowment for the arts award in poetry and holds MFAs from both Indiana University and New York University. She is the author of the recent memoir, The Bird Market of Paris, from Henry Holt & Company.