this is not what you thought you’d be reading

and honestly it’s not what I thought I would be writing

either, but this makes us allies, companions

in an unknown landscape, like students moved midyear

to a new school— cue up the cafeteria humiliation reel,

light the cheek’s fierce burn that sends hot sparks

to pock holes in the tiny hope chests tucked inside

our preteen hearts and most of us are still packing

some of that sorrow. The story we thought this might

be telling with its breadcrumb trail has slunk down

at the loser table to foot funk level in a plastic seat

with corroded chair legs, or better yet, it turned tail

and ran before even walking into the room

like we wish we had done instead of trying to sashay

across the page in the wrong clothes wearing

the cheap perfume of fake it till you make it like it’s

the kind of story that never sat alone at a table

pretending it didn’t want to die, but that story

and that story’s lie is long gone. So we begin again.

Each day. And look, whatever we didn’t think

this would be has been taking shape beneath our faces,

kneading its own dough, punching it down, letting it rise,

checking the oven, and now warm brown loaves

cool on a windowsill like in a book of fairy tales,

curls of steam lifting from their dark aromatic crusts,

delicious, whole wheat, gluten-free, or however

you need it, bread to pass between us in a story

we didn’t know would have a kitchen or windowsill

or cupboard where you find butter and I find

strawberry preserves, or a table where we sit down

together, take out our hidden knives, use them to spread

these slices, smooth the sweet jam, share the bread.

Hayden Saunier’s books of poetry include How to Wear This Body, Say Luck, Tips for Domestic Travel, and Field Trip to the Underworld.  Her new book of poetry, A Cartography of Home is due out in early 2021.  (