About the poet
Michael Schmidt (b.1947, Mexico City) is a central figure in contemporary poetry. He writes...
'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.
Michael Schmidt Reading from his Poems