Paul Muldoon Reads "The Loaf"

Paul Muldoon: So, this is a poem called The Loaf. It's set somewhat in the house that I live in in New Jersey, a house built in 1750 or thereabouts in that era.

When they were building a house, they incorporated huge amounts of horse hair into the wall to bind the plaster, so that's a feature of this poem which is really, which is essentially about a hole in a wall and a range of sensations through it. Appearing in it are some of the Irish navigational canal workers who built the Delaware and Raritan canal. That's about it. There is a little nonsense and a little nonsense refrain, or something close to it.

 

The Loaf

 

When I put my finger to the hole they've cut for a dimmer switch

in a wall of plaster stiffened with horsehair

it seems I've scratched a two-hundred-year-old itch

 

with a pink and a pink and a pinkie-pick.

 

When I put my ear to the hole I'm suddenly aware

of spades and shovels turning up the gain

all the way from Raritan to the Delaware

 

with a clink and a clink and a clinkie-click.

 

When I put my nose to the hole I smell the floodplain

of the canal after a hurricane

and the spots of green grass where thousands of Irish have lain

 

with a stink and a stink and a stinkie-stick.

 

When I put my eye to the hole I see one holding horse dung to the rain

in the hope, indeed, indeed,

of washing out a few whole ears of grain

 

with a wink and a wink and a winkie-wick.

 

And when I do at last succeed

in putting my mouth to the horsehair-fringed niche

I can taste the small loaf of bread he baked from that whole seed

 

with a link and a link and a linkie-lick.

 

Recorded on: Jan 30, 2008

 

The Pulitzer Prize winning Irish poet reads his poem.

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