Manna

By Virginia Dansereau


Wild poppies flutter in the grass laden field,
crimson, paper-thin, hearts easily broken.
Olives hang green despite the drought.
Unlike us, they age well without water.
This is a Spanish mill I’m peering out of,
adobe old. In bygone years, loaves of bread
graced the tables, disappeared by nightfall.


My mother grew poppies in her garden.
She collected them when the seeds rattled in their brown cases,
no inkling of their green potency.
She wanted them black, Ukrainian poppy seed bread her specialty.
Ground seeds, sugar, lemon juice, butter, milk, sweet dough.
She mixed by feel, spread the poppy mixture on rectangles of dough,
rolled and sealed, then laid the loaves to rise. When plump,
she popped them into the woodstove oven, temperature also by feel.


The wood-fed ovens of the mill are retired now,
but much of the Spanish flair lingers:
Maria slams out of the blue kitchen door,
claps her hands and performs a flamenco kick
to frighten a scorpion, lizards slink up the white wall,
cacti throw needles, the mill heaves a lazy sigh
beneath the vines, and the yeasty aroma of Mollete*

permeates the air.

I scan the area beyond the mill, light on an abandoned house
standing lonely on a hill. It transports me back to our home,
also abandoned, the smell of yeast a faded memory.
Like mine of my mother, dark hair and slender figure
super-imposed by a bent back and shuffling feet.
But if I adjust the lens, her manna bursts through me,
warm, wholesome, present.
 

*Molette – a thin loaf like a baguette