“Kneading Bread While Dying” by Christine Gelineau

Christine Gelineau


Not a loaf from antiquity forward
has ever been formed by hands
that were not dying—it’s not
that I’ve forgotten that, but here
I refer to the special quality imbued
to the feel of the yeast springing alive
under your palms when the breadmaking
is an attempt to distract yourself
from the Covid symptoms that
that have flared, and receded, flared
and receded within you now for weeks.

At 3 a.m., pacing, jittery, bellowing
your lungs in deep five-second breaths,
you find yourself pondering what
a life means, living, what is
the import of new mornings
when the darkness surrounds you
elementally as oxygen?

Remember that time on the plane,
the pilot preparing you for
emergency landing, twenty
minutes until we are “on the ground,”
see you on the ground
the pilot said and you curled into
yourself, folded into stasis, unable
to imagine what could one ever do
equal to the last twenty minutes of your life,
a question you knew even then had no answer.

And now, the window of time left
less definite, you fill the hours:
walk out into the cold spring
to breathe the chill air and visit
the nodding daffodils, or you FaceTime
the grandchildren, or you knead
the living dough, hands pressed deep
into the rising warmth of our daily bread.

from Poets Respond
May 3, 2020


Christine Gelineau: “My symptoms have been ‘atypical,’ so for the first two telemedicine visits both doctors were sure it could not be Covid-19 and so would not authorize testing, given the shortage of tests. Now that it has became clear that there were no other diagnoses that fit, and more has been learned about what is and is not typical, it is apparently too late for the test to be accurate. So, I’m in that area so many are in where the patient and the doctor have decided that must be it but you’re on no official rolls of confirmed cases. Since they have no treatment anyway, anyone not in an immediate emergency just stays home and does their best to support their immune system. And keep their spirits up.”

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