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Bread Ghazal

By Lisa Masé


My father taught me that fenugreek, caraway

and cumin are the secrets to our rye bread.


Hard enough to crack under a fist,

we call it by its German name: schuettelbrot.


Every fall, we stocked Nonna’s cellar

with newspaper-wrapped stacks of this hard tack bread.


After moving to the States, I spent a year researching

the Roma, who carried spices in their caravans for bread.


They brought fenugreek, caraway and cumin

from North Asia, wouldn’t let those seeds drop

until they reached a safe place to bake their moro.


The Alps became this haven, and rye sourdough

has been handed down ever since, bubbling

into the staple with which we were bred.


When I go home to Italy, grains are not the villains

they have become for America’s

health-obsessed disdainers of bread.


Instead, they are revered as keepers

at the chapel door of seasons: there is strength

to persevere if one at least has bread.


Fenugreek cleanses the fluid body,

caraway disinfects, and cumin helps digest

what may be too dense about Lisa’s pane.



Lisa Masé has been writing poetry since childhood. She teaches poetry workshops for Vermont’s Poem City events, co-facilitates a writing group, and has translated the poetry of writers from Italy, France, and the Dominican Republic.

Her chap book, Heart Breaks Open, was published by the Sacred Poetry Contest.

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