Something Understood: Bread of Life

Another post on the intersection of bread and spirituality… This week Radio 4’s Something Understood programme looked at the importance of bread in our physical and spiritual lives.

John McCarthy is baking with members of the bread group at an organisation called Freedom from Torture. It looks after survivors of torture from all over the world, people who have been abused in their homelands and are now trying to build new lives as exiles in the UK. Alongside regular counselling, social and legal help, the clients can also take advantage of group therapies such as the bread group. As they measure, mix, knead, bake and eat, they talk about the importance of bread in fulfilling both our physical and spiritual needs.

The programme includes readings from works by Primo Levi, David Scott and Zimbabwean poet Amanda Hammar, as well as two poems by Jean Atkin and Elizabeth Charis specially commissioned for this programme by Writing West Midlands.

If that’s your thing, check it out here.

I particularly liked the poem by David Scott, A Long Way from Bread:

A Long Way from Bread

We have come so far from bread.
Rarely do we hear the clatter of the mill wheel;
see the flour in every cranny,
the shaking down of the sack, the chalk on the door,
the rats, the race, the pool,
baking day, and the old loaves:
cob, cottage, plaited, brick.

We have come so far from bread.
Once the crock said ‘BREAD’
and the bread was what was there,
and the family’s arm went deeper doen each day
to find it, and the crust was favoured.

We have come so far from Bread.
terrifying is the breach between wheat and table,
wheat and bread, bread and what goes for bread.
Loaves now come in regiments, so that loaf
is not the word. Hlaf
is one of the oldest words we have.

I go on about bread
because it was to bread
that jesus trusted
the meaning he had of himself.
It was an honour for the bread
to be the knot in the Lord’s handkerchief
reminding him about himself. So,
O bread, breakable;
O bread, given;
O bread, a blessing;
count yourself lucky bread.

Not that I am against wafers,
especially the ones produced under steam
from some hidden nunnery
with our lord crucified into them.
They are at least unleavened, and fit the hand,
without remainder, but it is still
a long way from bread.
better for each household to have its own bread,
daily, enough and to spare,
dough the size of a rolled towel,
for feeding angels unawares.
Then if the bread is holy,
All that has to do with bread is holy;
Board, knife, cupboard,
So that the gap between all things is closed
In our attention to the bread of the day.’

I know that
“man cannot live on bread alone.”
I say, let us get the bread right.

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