The poem which follows has no real title so I've given it the first half of the first line as a title, 'His father was a baker...'. It's dedicated to my long term partner.

‘His father was a baker…’

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 his keep. I understand
The family prospered though the father drank

And now the second brother drinks, often
To excess. 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 Collected Poems (Smith/Doorstop, 2009) © Michael Schmidt 2009, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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