It was in August, such a lovely summer, that I began the massacring.
The flower killing. Feeding the sunflowers to the industrial dough mixer.
Soon there was enough yellow petal pulp for twelve loaves.
For twelve times ten loaves.
For twelve hundred loaves.
One of the food critics in town came around to inquire about my baking system.
. . . I glanced at the machete, propped next to the ovens.
Toward October (and what auburn weather!), I still felt
it, the substance of the soul, the libidinal terrible whatever.
I sat out back with the two countergirls, Haley and Shayla. There was one cigarette,
and we were sharing.
Mourning is the horizon of all desire, we were commiserating.
But Haley and Shayla, they’re—
They sell Kaiser rolls and sliced Sicilian and then they leave and put on a fancy tanktop
and go out for the evening.
They go even though—
The little white clematis cling to the fences.
(At dawn the buds were dying as a sweet white bread was rising.)
How beautiful were the yellow mums in the thin wintry sun!
The bread they made had the hue of golden potatoes.
Specks of red in lit windows: amaryllis
that I stole and slaughtered and sold inside a pain de mie roll.
I love how in the cold, my breath flowers before me.
I hacked through the ice to get at flower fetuses. The breads were very seedy.
It was really beginning.
Baguettes made entirely of white peonies.
Brioche from the blood of purple lilacs.
Long lines outside the bakery’s door . . .
What is the secret ingredient?
I confessed: Flower. Flowers! Please, put me away. I am desperate.
I could not go through another.
The woodbine had barely begun and already the mornings were full of the scent of
Not one honeysuckle would go unsucked—unless—
I closed the doors (every season is too full of longing!) and rechristened myself Flora.
I drank a vat of rose water and put both my wrists through the slicer.
And then I began to bleed—a white powder.
And then you came in.
I would have known you even if you were not wearing in your buttonhole a carnation.
The bakery is closed, I said tersely.
I was bleeding profusely.
I loved you even before you said
Nothing breaks more slowly, more silently, than bread.
With my blood pouring out as a fine, dry flour
let me confess before I expire.
There on the counter, in that vase
fresh and pink is the corsage I was keeping for our dance.