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Bread

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Slowly the white dream wrestle(s) to life

hands shaping the salt and the foreign cornfields
the cold flesh kneaded by fingers
is ready for the charcoal for the black wife

of heat the years of green sleeping in the volcano.
the dream becomes tougher. settling into its shape
like a bullfrog. suns rise and electrons
touch it. walls melt into brown. moving to crisp and crackle

breathing edge of the knife of the oven.
noise of the shop. noise of the farmer. market.
on this slab of lord. on this table w/ its oil-skin cloth
on this altar of the bone. this sacrifice

of isaac. warm dead. warm merchandise. more than worn merchandise
life
itself. the dream of the soil itself
flesh of the god you break. peace to your lips. strife

of the multitudes who howl all day for its saviour
who need its crumbs as fish. flickering through their green element
need a wide glassy wisdom
to keep their groans alive

and this loaf here. life
now halted. more and more water add-
itive. the dream less clear. the soil more distant
its prayer of table. bless of lips. more hard to reach w/ penn-

ies. the knife
that should have cut it. the hands that should have broken open its victory
of crusts at your throat. balaam watching w/ red leak
-ing eyes. the rats

finding only this young empty husk
sharp-
ening their ratchets. your wife
going out on the streets. searching searching

her feet tapping. the lights of the motor-
cars watching watching round-
ing the shape of her girdle. her back naked

rolled into night into night w/out morning
rolled into dead into dead w/out vision
rolled into life into life w/out dream

Kamau Brathwaite, “Bread” from Born to Slow Horses. Copyright © 2005 by Kamau Brathwaite and reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.
Source: Born to Slow Horses (Wesleyan University Press, 2005)
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Bread

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  • Born in Barbados, Caribbean poet and scholar Edward Kamau Brathwaite was educated at Harrison College in Barbados and Pembroke College in Cambridge. He earned his PhD in philosophy from the University of Sussex.
     
    Using “nation language” as well as linguistic and typographic innovation, Brathwaite composes poems that deftly parse the connected strands of postcolonial, historical, and personal inquiry. As Publishers Weekly noted in a review of Slow Horses (2005), Brathwaite’s work is “omnivorously synthetic, insistently local, sinuously syncopated and consistently exciting.”
     
    Co-founder of the Caribbean Artists Movement, Brathwaite is the author of numerous collections of poetry, including Elegguas (2010), the Griffin International Poetry Prize winner Slow Horses (2005), Ancestors (2001), Middle Passages (1992), and Black + Blues (1976). His first three collections, Rights of Passage (1967), Masks (1968), and Islands (1969), have been gathered into The Arrivants: A New World Trilogy (1973). He is also the author...

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