The Bread-Maker Speaks

after Brendan Kennelly

It is true that you comfort me
As I slit your flesh
When kneading is done,

Marking a cross
To create four quarters.
I am not brutal,

Your crushed kernels,
Have long awaited
The flow from jug to bowl,

Moisture not known since before
You were beheaded
In an August field.

Through milk, you remember rain,
What made you grow.
And I remember another kitchen,

The smell when soda
Was spooned, a pinch of salt,
Melted butter. Each time

My fingers glide
Beneath your thinly-floured
Mound, I learn again how days

And dreams fatten in warmth,
Wetness, barely dusted by
What contains them:

Routine acts, healing
In work, pleasure
In slit and cut.

From the fingers out,
I make shapes.
The oven’s belly groans.

by Mary O’Donnell

© Mary O’Donnell, 2009

Mary O’Donnell was born in Monaghan, Ireland. She has been a teacher of English, German and Drama, worked with the development agency Concern, been a translator, and worked in journalism as The Sunday Tribune‘s Drama Critic. She has a particular interest in poetry in translation and wrote and presented the RTE Radio programme ‘Crossing the Lines’, a series which focused on European poetry and included readings from many European countries. O’Donnell has published five previous poetry collections, including The Place of Miracles (New Island, 2007), as well as three novels and two collections of short fiction. You can find out more about Mary O’Donnell here and here.

‘The Bread-Maker Speaks’ comes from her latest collection, The Ark Builders, a book in which she attends to the nature of love, loss and continuity, and provides an insight into the complex energies of a struggling global ecology. The rhythms of her own country, Ireland, are keenly observed as it lives out its modern role, partly in flux, partly still aware of ancient connections to land and language. You can find out more about the collection and read other poems from it here. ‘The Bread-Maker Speaks’ is partly a response to the Irish poet Brendan Kennelly’s own poem ‘Bread’, available to read here. The Poetry Centre will be featuring a more recent Kennelly poem in the next few weeks.

Arc Publications publishes contemporary poetry from new and established writers from the UK and abroad, specialising in the work of international poets writing in English, and the work of overseas poets in translation. Arc also has a music imprint, Arc Music, for the publication of books about music and musicians. To learn more about Arc and to see its range of titles, click here.

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