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Saturday, March 26, 2022


by Anne Harding Woodworth

A crucial portion of the world’s wheat, corn and barley is trapped in Russia and Ukraine because of the war. Credit: Vitaly Timkiv/Associated Press via The New York Times, March 20, 2022

The fibers of the breadbasket are unraveling.
Metaphor is of no use in wartime.
Call the breadbasket what it is: fertile country
that supplies grains near and far,
threatened now, as arable fields lie unplowed,
despoiled by the Bear at planting time.
Metaphor is useless. The tractor with plow
(or seeder) attached should be chugging out
into the fields now and on into the end of April—
but won’t be.
Man or woman on a tractor—easy target for the Bear.
But that’s metaphor, too.
Call the Bear what he is: greedy and cruel creature.
And not all bears. This one is a singular carrier of evil,
who leads his cubs to do his bidding.
There’s little grain left for the families,

for the animals, and none to ship out to Egypt,
Indonesia, Morocco, Israel, Spain, Tunisia.

Tunisia, once called a breadbasket itself,
until it was swallowed up by desert.

Now do you see how metaphors
don’t always work?

The world is hungry and hungrier, as the Bear
destroys fecund fields. No seeds will open.

No grains will be harvested. The breadbasket
empty, crushed. War destroys metaphor.
Food! is the only word left.

Anne Harding Woodworth’s seventh book of poetry Trouble received the 2022 William Meredith Award for Poetry.