My presence at the bakery usually brings down the average age by several years. It’s a crowd of octogenarians shouting above their hearing aids about Trump, gout, and the pharmacy that gets their prescriptions wrong. I’m able to be young here, which is nice. After a few minutes of eavesdropping, I get the earbuds going loud enough to shut out the world a bit.
The weather’s just turned cold enough to remind me of the poem I wrote in and about (sort of) this place, The Original Bakery. They talked me into having the rhubarb coffee cake this morning, something I’ve never seen here before. I’m glad I said yes – a thing I find to be true more and more often as I get older.
The Rally Point
At the bakery in winter the old men hold the door
for their trundling wives. The wind is urgent and
less polite and elbows past them as if to jump
the line, which would move faster if there were
labels on the offerings of the trade – the bear
claws and crullers and streusels and strudels
(and who really knows which is which?)
How, with the wind and the winter in here
and the line pressing on, are they to know
what to say? They ask what’s this and what’s
that and sometimes when they’re told it hurts
a little to not know already. They are ambushed
by names like Bismarck and Pershing because
those martial monikers patrol the pastry case
with the cold tactics of ghostly senescence.
Unable to assemble the memories they find
wandering amid the hovering chaff of history’s
dusky fields, they swallow unchallenged passwords
and re-feel the crippling fear of never finding
their way back through the percussive silence.
But here is a good place, the bakery in winter,
where old wives recount for the girl at the counter
stories of the latest hospital stay. The husbands
hang their leather bombers – worn wrinkled and
grave as their skin, on the backs of chairs. With
the wind so urgent though, and less polite, they
put their jackets back on and think about Bismarck
and Pershing and wonder if it was enough
to have your name live on forever, even if only as
anonymous dough in a familiar place that
nevertheless stayed too cold
in the winter.