Cracked Wheat

Montana mornings, when cold siphoned
water out of air to paint feathers on windows,
when breath clouded around us in white drifts
at the bus stop, were mornings for cracked wheat.

Steaming, soaked in milk and honey, we ate hard
red winter wheat from the basement supply. Stored
in five-gallon buckets. Stored up against hard
times: famine, or more likely, modern plagues of
nuclear war, failures of government.

I did not want the homemade whole wheat in my
Strawberry Shortcake lunchbox. I longed for
store-bought white bread to match Strawberry’s
picnic scene. Bread with an engineered
crumb and soft crusts. And cold cereal,
as likeable as on television.

My mother worked hard grinding her own
wheat, baking her own bread. Was it practice
for a harder life?

That wheat never got to save us from
the calamity against which it was stored.
Those that came were of a softer kind.

Emily Updegraff lives near Chicago. She studied biology for the first decade of her adulthood. In her second and third she is working, mothering, and reading widely. She is just beginning to find ways to share her poems and this is her first online poetry publication.

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