December 20, 2012

Poem of the Week: A Whole Wheat Poem [For Peggy]


Gary Allan Kizer

When a friend bakes you bread,
You eat their labor, which requires respect and teeth.
Eating the bread is your own labor, exchanged fairly
And no longer a commodity.

I cannot bake bread in return, I cook cans
On a lightbulb and they would be cold in the mail.
But I can write poems for bread bakers
And give them away free.

The bread you buy in the store is sour,
Too many hands have passed it toward the market.
You can no longer taste the bread bakers love,
All you can taste are sadness, routine.

Next time you go shopping, ask the man for
Bread with love in it, the free bread.
Free bread? With love in it? We're fresh out,
He'll answer, if he answers at all.

If our work tastes bad, think of those
Who own it, who buy it for enough to eat
Stale bread with. Think of those who stamp
A price on things we should do for each other.

When a friend bakes you bread, it in no way helps
Build your body strong in twelve different ways,
Or keep phony monks in business. It quietly asks you
To eat the revolution without rat shit mixed in.

from Let A Single Flower Blossom
(the greenfield review press, 1977)

[This poem touches several issues, especially the question of labor done for love as opposed to labor done for hire, one also addressed by Morris Rosenfeld in an earlier PotW, "For Hire."

Gary Allan Kizer wrote several superb poems. This chapbook is out of print, unfortunately. To give you a better idea of where he's coming from, here's part of his introduction to the chapbook, as it has more information than is readily findable on the Internet:
I was born on a farm outside of Salamanca, New York. Soon after, my parents moved to Buffalo and went to work in the munitions industry toward the end of WWII. My dad split when I was five and I was raised in Buffalo by my mother and two older sisters. Following that came public school, young romance, juvenile delinquency and my first experience as a ward of the State. After 13 months of that, I cam home at 16, forged a birth certificate for 18 and went into the merchant marine. I also met a good woman. We lived common-law for 6 years and raised 5 children. I worked in the steel plants and as a roofer during the last 3 years I spent with my family. Then a man died and i went to Attica State Prison with a life sentence on my back. That was 9 years and 5 different prisons ago. I began reading Karl Marx during my third year in prison. About the same time, the State judged me as being incapable of rehabilitation. I hold the same opinion of the State. Read the book and see who's right.]

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