By Cornelius Eady
I walk into the bakery next door
To my apartment. They are about
To pull some sort of toast with cheese
From the oven. When I ask:
What’s that smell? I am being
A poet, I am asking
What everyone else in the shop
Wanted to ask, but somehow couldn’t;
I am speaking on behalf of two other
Customers who wanted to buy the
Name of it. I ask the woman
Behind the counter for a percentage
Of her sale. Am I flirting?
Am I happy because the days
Are longer? Here’s what
She does: She takes her time
Choosing the slices. “I am picking
Out the good ones,” she tells me. It’s
April 14th. Spring, with five to ten
Degrees to go. Some days, I feel my duty;
Some days, I love my work.
Poem copyright © 1997 by Cornelius Eady, from Hardheaded Weather: New and Selected Poems (Putnam, 2008). Reprinted by permission of Cornelius Eady.
Poet and cofounder of Cave Canem, Cornelius Eady has published more than half a dozen volumes of poetry. Music is a central theme of Eady’s work, along with family and the challenges unique to the African American experience. Eady’s ability to examine several stories at once—while paring the lyrical intersections of these lives to moments remarkable in their clarity, exuberance, and vulnerability—has garnered critical acclaim. In 1996 Eady and poet Toi Derricote founded Cave Canem, a nonprofit organization that supports emerging African American poets through a summer retreat, regional workshops, a first-book prize, annual anthologies, and events and readings across the country.
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