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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 Bio

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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