On reading Roberta Feins’ "A Morsel of Bread, A Knife"

Sensual people can write about sensuality. John Updike was my introduction into sensual literature, a very masculine sensuality. Our gender certainly defines how things feel upon contact, with our skin, our nose, our heart. Roberta Feins commands these sensual lines with grace, simplicity and feminine caress. She makes the sensual spiritual, through food and cloth, a commanded indulgence that suggest that all feeling starts with skin and tongue, and withers with time. Her verse is clear bordering on terse. She avoids proverbiality at all costs; every image is grounded. The experience of her book is like listening to an aunt tell you about her life, her woes, herself, what she likes to feel and eat, her mouth, the final altar and resting place of her experience. She accounts for many trips to France and describes farm scenery vividly. The title itself A Morsel of Bread, A Knife (Center on Contemporary Art, Seattle, 2018) makes me see myself spreading foie-gras on piece of dried bread, enjoying it to the last crunch, strong odor still in my nose, a piece of brie and a glass of red-wine to follow, and touch of mature cruelty for the finish. The poem “Under the Eaves” (p20) captures the spirit of the poems, particularly in its final four stanzas.

 

                                 “By the Singer
Sewing machine who lived in the corner
chintz scraps pile on top
of Arnel nylon, as if at an orgy
                                  of 70’s swingers
A Parisienne party frock—sable velvet
Shot with silver, voyeurs dispassionately,
unfolding a faint odor of sweat,”

 

While the persona in the poem is describing fabrics, she simultaneously connects us with how they feel. Catch the subtle alliteration in “s” sound, “Singer… Sewing… chintz scraps…” that follow through both stanzas until she closes at “sweat.” In the next two following stanzas, she is now finding “relics of her diabetic grandma / dead for forty years” until she falls on her “father’s snapshots of another woman-- / naked…” She makes a sweet grave of sensuality, something to be relished, a “metal dish with a chunk of fresh bread torn / from a demi-baguette, to savor appetizers, / move on to further pleasures, worship / at the portable altar of my body” (from "Cuisine of Mother Country." p19).

 

 

Darryl Wawa

Darryl Wawa is a Port-au-Prince born Haitian-American who studied Photography and Creative writing. He enjoys chocolate and good books. That said, maybe a movie is a good book. He loves to work with images and words and their pairing.

 

Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Friday, October 12, 2018 - 22:53