Introducing the September 2008 Readers – 4. Michael Schmidt

Michael Schmidt was born in Mexico in 1949. He was educated at Harvard and Oxford and is now Professor of Poetry at the University of Glasgow, editorial director of Carcanet Press and general editor of PN Review. He has written novels, poetry and literary history, and is an anthologist. The Resurrection of the Body is his most recent collection (Smith/Doorstop 2006).

‘His father was a baker . . .’
for A.G.G

His father was a baker, he the youngest son.
I understand they beat him, and they loved him.

His father was a baker in Oaxaca:
I understand his bakery was the best

And his three sons and all his daughters helped
As children with the baking and the pigs.

I can imagine chickens in their patio,
At Christmastime a wattled turkey-cock, a dog

Weathered like a wash-board, yellow-eyed,
That no one stroked, but ate the scraps of bread

And yapped to earn its keep. I understand
The family prospered though the father drank

And now the second brother follows suit.
I understand as well that love came

Early, bladed, and then went away
And came again in other forms, some foreign,

And took him by the heart away from home.
His father was a baker in Oaxaca

And here I smell the loaves that rose in ovens
Throughout a childhood not yet quite complete

And smell the fragrance of his jet-black hair,
Taste his sweet dialect that is mine too,

Until I understand I am to be a baker,
Up before dawn with trays and trays of dough

To feed him this day, next day and for ever —
Or for a time — the honey-coloured loaves.

(from ‘The Resurrection of the Body’)

Other readers on Sunday 14th September:
Helena Nelson
Dorothy Baird
Charlotte Runcie

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