Jack Ross Knutson

Grandmother's Bread

I remember the stone bread sculpted from raw earth, 
pebbles, granite, rock, steel, stone and iron and the 
breath of Ariel drawn from the wind weighed 200 
pounds each loaf, the 4 foot ten inch woman lifted 
gingerly the cardamom load, her arms instantly bulging 
enormous biceps, triceps to place the leaden loaves 
lovingly as newborns into the furnace oven, small and 
reminiscent of that hunger which carved every line in 
those rough hewn hands and face. Hunger had made her 
small, wiry and leathery as a Sequoia tree, 
impermeable, implacable. Vestiges of famine looked 
back down upon me when slowly and suddenly a bright 
aroma wafted like a song from heaven's choir, creeping 
a timid cat atmosphere of cardamom, ginger, caraway, 
salt, yeast, sorghum, molasses, sugar, soy and oat. The 
oven of itself open-sesame burst wide-open revealing 
the entire wheat fields of Kansas, the plains of Mars, 
and stony Småland, and even redeemed Sodom and 
Gomorrah now penitent in the imminent appeasement 
of wolfish, insatiable, gnawing hunger that had 
trampled cruel like Charles Twelfth armies forever over 
and inside the empty caverns of pleading stomach. Siren 
scents, drawing in the heavy steps of Grampa, still 
strong as an ox, gorilla built, chiseled himself from 
stone, made human and incarnate by the smell of that 
bread, long since his youth spent in the stone desert of 
Småland, working for the baron, field hard-labor, empty 
stomach, cheap snuff bought with blood money wages 
to kill that spirit within that demands begs and craves 
nourishment just to remain human, biceps like loaves 
juggled the 100 pound cement-bags, one in each hand 
he picked like daisies, mortar-mixed on his bread-
leaven hod-palette, carried two-hundred pounds three 
more rickety ladder stories high to sculpt walls, 
walkways and wonders to be ignored in everyday life, 
taken for granted what hunger plastered, painted and 
covered within until now, not want wasting one atomic 
crumb forever. That’s how I remember grandmother's 
bread, comforting like the midnight angel of mercy that 
led her out of the forest in Skåne, fleeing abuse at the 
baron's manor in 1895 to baking us bread, bread that I 
still savor and smell.