First Light

Listen to Jim Powell reading this poem.

Graying chest hair emerging from his apron-top in tufts
dusted with a snow of flour
above the swelling rondure of his oven belly,
sleeves rolled, arms folded, at ease on the porch steps
outside the back door of the bakery

in the lively air of the early hour taking a break
while the bread cools on the racks inside
and a breeze picks up off the bay: the mist lifts
and the swarming dust of starlight reappears,
the constellations that were given names

beside the hive-domed ovens of Chaldea and of Ur—
near first light, thick arms cradling rolls
and crusty loaves, a gift for late-returning revelers,
for the derelict who washes in the creek
under the bridge his daily bread at daybreak.