June 22nd carries quite a bit of freight in our house this year. It’s the winter solstice; it’s the day they announce the finalists of the 2010 NZ Post Book Awards (and the winner of the NZSA Jessie Mackay Award for Best First Book of Poetry – fingers, toes and various organs crossed) and it’s also my grandmother’s 104th birthday.
She taught me to read; she gave me poetry; and she’s been telling people that I was going to be a poet since I was four years old. It seems appropriate that today’s poem should be one that I wrote for her a few years ago.
for Mary Harris
My Grandmother taught me this,
to bake the brown loaf
that crackles like starched linen
as it cools, and fills the house
with the scent of fresh bread.
On tip-toe beside her
I learned the alchemy of yeast,
the rhythmical sway of kneading,
the patience of rising,
With her love I make this bread,
hands dancing with flour and magic;
this household sacrament
that keeps a family – come, eat:
the staff of life,
the stuff of love.