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Flour Is Firm

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The Traveler’s Vade Mecum, line 4234

Baking two parts flour to one part water
could stop a bullet. So good soldiers
carried their hardtack over their hearts.
Break it down with a rifle butt, flood it,
fry it in pig fat to make hellfire stew.
Gnaw it raw and praise the juice.

Does wheat prepare for this as it grows,
seeking the light in a half-thawed field?
Do stalks know their strength is merely
in their number? What is ground down
we name flour in promise that it will be
made useful. Otherwise, it’s just dust.

Sheet iron crackers.
Teeth-dullers.
Would you call it starving, if a man dies
with hardtack still tucked in his pocket?
Can you call it food, if the bullet comes only
at the moment he gives in and swallows?

Source: Poetry (July/August 2013)

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This poem originally appeared in the July/August 2013 issue of Poetry magazine

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Flour Is Firm

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