A theme of both "All Bread" and "Bread" is that a loaf of bread is not a simple, stand-alone item. It has a complex relationship with death, with hunger, and with need. Both the poem and the essay (or prose poem) make the point that the bread we...
A theme of both "All Bread" and "Bread" is that a loaf of bread is not a simple, stand-alone item. It has a complex relationship with death, with hunger, and with need. Both the poem and the essay (or prose poem) make the point that the bread we eat comes at a cost to something or someone else.
In "All Bread," the speaker notes that, paradoxically, the bread that gives us life emerges from grain that gets its nutrients from death, fertilized, at least in part, by "the bodies of dead animals." The speaker goes on to state, in stanza three, that bread:
of its own small death, of the deaths
before and after.
The speaker in the last stanza notes that to eat this bread is to "consecrate it, almost." The word "almost" is important, as it calls into question whether we really do make bread sacred by eating it. Is the bread worth the cost?
In "Bread," the speaker writes about bread in a context larger than just slicing it and eating it. She notes that while we in comfortable circumstances eat our bread, someone else is starving. She also notes that bread can be a trade off between our own needs and those of other people. Do we accept bread in prison when the price is betraying other people? Denying sharing our bread with others is compared, citing an old fairytale, to drawing blood.
Both works complicate the simple act of eating bread by reminding those of us who have enough of the wider context of death and deprivation in which we eat and live.