Food for thought

Uncle Jacob

Forty years kneading dough

After the war,

Told me he had found only

Two ways of making bread;

The slow bake of philosophy

the luxury of the rich or high minded,

for the rest, the quick snatch of wonder

between the long steady strokes of the whip.

Then sternly, his strong hand on my shoulder

He said,

“Son, always be on the other end of the whip,

for there they eat not bread but cake.

Living is an affair for those who turn on the ovens.

Category: Poems | Tags: 5 comments »

5 Responses to “Food for thought”

  1. ellen

    Living is an affair for those who turn on the ovens.

    Chilling. These are some of my favorite poems, David, when you write carefully from your roots.

  2. admin


    Yes, that is one of a number of lines that I’m proud of. I like it because it can be read on several levels. There are two contexts by which one might read this poem – which was yours? What does that line actually mean to you?

  3. ellen

    In the context of this poem, a reference to the crematoria ovens of the holocaust.

    Without the “Uncle Jacob” and “forty years after the war” it probably wouldn’t jump out at me like that.

    With those references, I can’t avoid it.

  4. admin

    Yes, I guess I made it obvious enough however I think there will be others who could read it and without getting that reference , might still find the message there. I really seek that, a multiple entry and exit into and out of the poem…

    You can also read this poem in a marxist vein I would think…

  5. ellen

    I think the two themes work together. It is a poem about haves and have nots, and the consequences of that kind of power.

    The last line drives home the ultimate consequence of the world being built this way.

    As time goes on, it is less and less likely that the reader will feel hit in the face (in a good way) by the references that lead to the holocaust crematoriums. I might be in the last general wave of that (father who fought in WW2). And the poem will still stand.


    I laughed when I read You can also read this poem in a marxist vein. I have never thought of Marx when reading a poem!

    I would be more likely to think of Perry Mason, and maybe the founders of the United States :D You know I love democracy, David, with all my heart. Even when it doesn’t go my way. I just can’t stand to see it usurped by unbridled corporate capitalism. The corrupt use of money to control and dominate our public institutions.

    Yes, I have read the communist manifesto, by myself, not as part of a group, no one to discuss it with. It was a long time ago, but I really liked the support for the worker being in control and having a meaningful life, and that it’s immoral to make money off of someone else’s labor- IT’S STEALING!

    My young experience with socialists was that they were a pretty humorless group, and… really want to boss other people around. The end effect is me wanting to wrap my Bill of Rights around me :D

    Communism is a pretty philosophy. I wish it could work. Why does it breed such contempt for family and human life? Rampant corruption, evil and cruel dictatorships, pretty lies designed to fool the innocently idealistic.

    The United States needs to control its corporations. Do you know that some of the ‘founding fathers’ wrote about this 200+ years ago? Warned that corporations can’t be given the same rights as a person? That corporations cannot be allowed to influence public policy or elections? That to grant corporate charters for reasons other than public works would lead to the destruction of democracy?

    But I think things would have to get very bad for the general US population for there to be a general uprising against corporate power, AND that is also the only way it is going to be curtailed. Our political system won’t do it- it is too married to those corporations to overcome that influence. Obama, Bush, Reagan, Clinton- it is all simply a matter of degree. None of them can get elected without corporate backing. It is IMPOSSIBLE to be elected to national office without it.

    But I never even think to read poems from a political point of view. I don’t know how I could feel the poem at the same time.

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