two cups of lukewarm water
                        the temperature of our beating hearts
two and a half teaspoons yeast
                        dropped without warning
one teaspoon of sea salt
                        since we could not cry for fear
a quarter cup of oil
                        we learned to count it out

one cup of wheat flour
                        fourteen days self-isolation
two cups of wheat flour
                        sudden rising unemployment
three cups of wheat flour
                        countries closing borders
four cups of wheat flour
                        all those days inside the house
five cups of wheat flour
                        hospital capacity and ICU beds
one last half-cup for good measure
                        untested, infected, transmitted, dead

my hands are sticky with dough
                        their throats were choked with tubes
my hands are sticky with dough
                        the crematoria ran day and night
my hands are sticky with dough
                        we were not prepared for this
my hands are sticky with dough
                        mercy, lord, have mercy on us


We read the news from Wuhan, from Italy,
tuned in faithfully to Angela, Boris, Donald, Justin,

while the county health units counted bodies.
We learned what the bakers have always known

about rough handling, the imputation of strength,
how the dough only becomes resilient

after it goes through a painful surrender.
The news pummeled us with statistics and warnings.

We learned to absorb the shuddering blows
as our souls became windowpane-thin.


Wear your mask
out on the street.

Beware the leaven
of the Pharisees.

Activate, foment,
incubate, rise.

Rise up, rise



What the bread gave us back was time:
carte-blanche permission to stop, to rest,
to relish the impossibility of rush or hurry.
We could spend our minutes kneading dough,
shaping loaves, carefully feeding a starter
we had given an improbable name.
We sat on kitchen floors and waited
while it rose, waited while it baked,
while it cooled, letting the time run out
between our fingers like sand.

non-medical face mask painted with bright flowers

Flower Power (non-medical mask) by Darlene Kulig

About Christine Pennylegion

Christine Pennylegion grew up in Toronto and has since lived in and around Ottawa, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Windsor. She holds a BA(Hons) in English from the University of Toronto, and an MA in Religion from Trinity School for Ministry (Ambridge, PA). Christine spends her days changing diapers, washing dishes, and reading good books. She blogs irregularly at and writes poems. This is her first publication.

About Darlene Kulig

After a successful career as a graphic designer, Darlene began painting full-time ten years ago. Her award-winning work has been published in magazines and can be found in Canadian embassy buildings, the Mayo Clinic, and art galleries across Canada and internationally. Pomegranate Communications has licensed Darlene's work to be reproduced as contemporary Canadian content in their international product line. Most recently, she has created a line of face masks to raise money for her nephew's memorial fund, The Craig Kulig Memorial Fund for cancer research at the Ottawa Hospital. See more of Darlene's work at Learn about the Craig Kulig Memorial Fund here.

2 thoughts on “Breaditations

  1. Darlene Kulig

    Such a powerful poem lovingly told between the careful, calming steps of making sour dough bread. I have learned to make masks and I have also learned to make sour dough bread…. from a place of love in this strange time of Covid. Proceeds from my
    Masks go to The Craig Kulig Memorial Fund to fund cancer research.

  2. Pingback: Breaditations | In this Ordinary Time

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