Incandescent bread 

I baked bread recently using khorasan wheat. I had never milled grain for bread before and it was an arduous process with a countertop grinder. I was actually more interested in studying how my sourdough starter would work on a new variety of wheat flour.

The type I used, Triticum turanicum, (trademarked as Kamut in the US) is named after a species that some websites claim, possibly had its origins in the Fertile Crescent region of the Middle East, in what could have been parts of Iran, Afghanistan or Turkey. The Khorasan wheat, according to some others, is thought to have originated in Mesopotamia and then brought into Egypt [1]. Kamut is similar to durum wheat which is the one used in making pasta. 

In her dissertation, Tate Paulette notes that in the third millennium BC, cuneiform documents suggested that barley was more widely grown along with some emmer wheat and another free threshing species, which could have possibly been durum. Paulette also adds that in some sites across Northern and Southern Mesopotamia for example, archaeologists have actually recovered emmer wheat (Triticum dicoccum), and einkorn wheat (Triticum monococcum), as well as some other varieties of wheat, including bread wheat (Triticum aestivum) and club wheat (Triticum compactum) in addition to 2-row (Hordeum distichum) and 6-row (Hordeum
vulgare) barley (Paulette 2015: 7-8)[2]. 

Navigating heirloom grains is an almost political process. In any case, it was fun experimenting with this unusual looking wheat berry and the bread had an even crumb to it. It was delicious, like bread can be. I should share the recipe soon. 

Enjoy the poem !

The dough is molten at oven spring,
like a prayer to the historicity of things ..

Have we not imagined yesterdays
in the ritual of bread ? While our pasts

lay embezzled, on the tongues of men, the
sentiment of centuries colluded in germ,

echoing through heirloom remembrances
those floury philosophies of change.

While I stretch dough to gaze past
a windowpane, as far back as Khorasan ..

they were other names then, another
elasticity in time. Faith is a memory

of settled people in lands of milk and
honey, where every drought, every flood

spawns a new religion .. and the wheat,
always begs the same old question:

Are we there yet, in the fertile crescent
of opportunity ? The grains haven't changed

in their stolid countenance - long, subtle,
germy, cosseted. In the granaries of kings ..

they are willed by royal decree, never to die
in an eternal future and like humankind,

who score bread in the cuneiform of hearts,
grain is always thirsting to seed the land.

Terms [3]

Oven spring – In bread baking, the final burst of rising just after a loaf is put in the oven and before the crust hardens.

Windowpane test – the term is used to describe the state of the dough when it has been kneaded/folded enough and has a strong gluten network. 

[1]~https://www.organicvalley.coop/blog/bob-quinn-modern-benefits-of-ancient-grains/

[2]~https://oi.uchicago.edu/research/research-archives-library/dissertations/grain-storage-and-moral-economy-mesopotamia-3000

[3]~https://www.breadandbasil.nyc/sourdough/sourdough-glossary#windowpane

Conversations under a cherry tree

Cherry blossoms have a way about them as they beckon you for a conversation beneath their laden branches, while they avalanche into confetti  triggered by the muffled sounds of people, under a wispy sun in the caress of a gentle breeze …

There were picnickers on the grounds, their colourful mats in sharp contrast to the pastels of their sylvan hosts. I had to return to Branch Brook Park on a sunny yesterday for photographs and to catch up with a dear friend. I promised I would write a poem to this meeting under the cherry tree.

Under a Japanese Cherry Tree
Blossoms occluded thought in a morning meditation of a centrifugal breath. Does the center of gravity reside in a cherry tree trunk, as we paint wispy conversations under the grace of seasonal confetti ? There aren't enough poems rooting under a cherry tree, yet our hearts communed in a space somewhere wordless, when we spoke of your parents and mine, how yours kissed earth last year and mine kiss sun. Death always eavesdrops on conversations under blossoms exhaling the dregs of life and I watched you make sense of the universe through the Book of Job and a just God. A meaningful theodicy claimed your heart, as you wove in a foreign land, a young life you knew, lost in a meaningless gruesome beheading, of a body bereft of identity, one vanished for a proper burial. And then, it wasn't lost on us, that here we were at the requiem of blossoms, in a pastel conversation of a petal caress, pedestrians led on thought, dogs led on leashes, a woman in a crimson dress posing to whitewash petals, a mature couple, the shades of beige and ebony under the trees, melded further in a secluded corner, and there we were, just the same. Us and them and the cherry trees, speaking of life, death, meaning. The beautiful world strangely floated in place to the ones that weren't blind to it's shades of exhausted blossoms, lining sidewalks. It couldn't have been more real than at that moment.

.

.

.

Our conversations were on other topics as well, but I chose to stay with Job in this poem, specifically because of trying to understand and justify the presence of evil in this world. The theodicies in the Book of Job are too numerous to mention here.

As an atheist despite my Catholic upbringing, I always find intriguing  how we come to terms with the contradictions in our beliefs, professed ethics and perceived realities. Does misfortune strengthen belief, then, would we be in danger of feeling entitled to good  fortune when it does appear, in a certain arrogance of thinking ourselves deserving, therefore ? How does one justify human evil as the reality of existence? How does one justify judgement as ethical and necessary? How does one approach all this in the absence of God? Do secularists, atheists etc rely on other formal institutions for their social or human conscience? It is much more complex as people are all different or are they really? Or do they simply don the garb of a convenient persona within their social cohort, simply believing they have a unique ideology of selfhood, conscience, morality untainted by their social circumstance ?

The only real in all of it is that some live while others die, some suffer less at death while others die a horrific one,  some heal while some hurt, some deceive and others  don’t, some love while some hate, some are evil, others saints, some brave some cowards, some happy, others sad … or it’s just death that is real in the end and the birthing of life while all else is simply a poem.

Plasmodesma of dreams …

‘Cogito ergo sum’ and this has a strange way of transmuting into a plummet down a rabbit hole of analysis paralysis. It’s actually gardening that grounds me each time my mind goes into overdrive. I have a sign I created for my garden in Kenya that says ‘I garden therefore I am’ 😃 No matter what it is that triggers a debilitating self narrative within oneself, it has always been the soil for me. I bury my fingers in mud and feel earthed. We each have our own way of battling with storms no matter the phantasms we invoke or worship in our minds. Warning: dissecting Descartes in overdrive ahead ……

Now imagine if the brain-in-a-vat scenario were true, that we are nothing but a disembodied brain living in a vat of nutrients. How is one to tell the difference between reality and a dream like state?  In fact, how is one to tell the difference even if it were not the case? It’s hard to imagine Descartes evil demon of supreme power who cunningly employs his powers for deception by altering the laws of mathematics and logic to present an illusory world. For those that are visually inclined, Christopher Nolan’s ‘ Inception’ would be a great example, where the distinction between dreams blurs, experiences in dreams are created with objects from a prior life and the infiltrators of a dream know that they are dreaming, unlike Descartes, they are able to ‘think’ and thus know while dreaming, that they aren’t awake.

I am picking up on the thread of Cartesian thought from his dream argument, trying less to render it legible through poetry than to illustrate it. Does thinking make you realize wakefulness ? But Leo Di’Caprio is thoughtfully aware even in his dream, to his state of sleep. Have you ever been in a falling dream and woken up having experienced the fall but it’s not quite that … you still have questions, even rhetorical, if you are philosophically inclined.

Dreams, if they aren’t nightmares, can make for pleasant experiences and sometimes for humorous ones … although, for the life of me I have never woken up from a dream laughing ~ food for thought.

.

.

.

It may have been the votives on the table, the tea lights weren’t blinking / were they lit or were they new / the senses were a jumble like the garbled intellect of Professor Calculus floating in a sarcophagus on an ocean / Why was I remembering Tintin / It wasn’t his dream, it was mine so this is a false memory perhaps / like happiness in sleep /

Is this when the dream gets tannic like a tea kept too long on the counter / to be snapped out of, like Alice from the clutches of an invisible cat and a visible charm / in a free fall plummeting to the rocks below / amid visions of people whose philosophy she thinks she knows but cannot read ……and some that didn’t know me or possibly did /

They were dressed like birds / while you feel naked, you know those acrid dreams when you are in your birthday suit / and everyone you know is at your birthday / smiling at the emperor’s clothes of sudden shame / a vivid montage in a slide viewer unfurling seasons / without colour, unless you conjure a yellowing green in words or aphorisms / that vomits a strange music in cuneiform lyrics, disrespectfully rude in their sharp lines and arrows / as my tongue rolls around in my mouth, a hormonal aftertaste /

Was this a shared dream / the plasmodesmata logging a sequential transfer / bits and bytes of code through cellular minds creating a narrative of pixels / magnified like …… no, those weren’t rocks / It was a trough and I was careening along bridges undulating like a whip across oceans / Could this be real / the adrenalin rush of the roller coaster at Universal Studios / but mine was a feat of engineering /

Such crests rising over oceans disappearing in an atmospheric haze / to fall into an abyss of awakening / in a soft bed …… but I remembered I fell / Here, under the goose down of a plump duvet, time simply draws to a crawl and everything is really real / or so I think ……

.

.

.

The brain-in-a-vat scenario and the dream argument are best illustrated in the Spanish movie ‘Abre los ojos’ by Alejandro Amenabar starring Penelope Cruz and Eduardo Noriega. (An English version of the same with Tom Cruise in the lead was produced later as ‘Vanilla Sky’). Having watched both movies, the original more recently than the newest, I found the premise of immortality in them quite interesting, except that it comes at a cost of losing ones sanity while in a dream. The protagonist of the film finds himself dreaming and thinking it real, but harbouring real life regrets. Unlike in Descartes dream argument, the sophistication of dreams in these films is such that the dream scenario is coherent, in fact, in the remake of the film, prior experiences and objects are used to construct the dream sequence.

Dreams make for interesting movies for sure, great illustrations for philosophy, the dream itself lends nuance to poetry perhaps, until we know the difference between the real of wakefulness from a dream …… I have yet to get to the modern theories on precognitive dreams that may help to shed light on Cartesian thought and other such mind body problems, more on that later.

I hope you enjoyed the poem dear reader. A heady start to the day, hardly simple but dreams are complicated. Reality feels like a dream sometimes when we are unable to comprehend and then configure a coherent narrative of memories or live fully immersed in the present and plan effectively for the future. Is this what our stressors are I wonder, would the limiting of thinking variables help. A poem should always help indicate a kernel of solution. Plainly rhetorical.