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Poetry Friday

One teasing April day the mad priest
approached a bakery truck and prayed
If that priest is still loose
changing substantially everything 
he knows how,

what if no one overhears?

Upon first reading the poem “Wonder Bread,” I remembered a 2010 mock commercial for “Pre-Blessed Food.” It wasn’t filmed and posted to YouTube until eleven years after “Wonder Bread” was published in Image, but it was a cultural cornerstone when I was in middle school. Peers at the small Christian university that I attend still quote it to this day: Pre-blessed food “hasn’t only saved us time; it’s saved our souls.”

The laughableness of the commercial and the delight of “Wonder Bread,” however, differ fundamentally in their blessing. While the former mocks the commercialization of faith, Jeanine Hathaway’s poem offers a thought experiment in transubstantiation: If the mad priest brings Christ to the bakery, and the bishop isn’t there to buy up the lot—the whole “Body of Christ”—on behalf of the church, what will change?

In the poem, the “Wonder Bread” consumed outside communion blesses the everyday. The magic, the “hocus pocus” of the words that transform a wafer into the body of Christ, infuses life with other miracles. A man finds union dues. A student sees work. Even the birds are blessed. Those birds, for which God can account every feather, “flap and chatter aloft, full of breadcrumbs.”

One of the stars of Smith’s fake commercial says that, since switching to pre-blessed food, “ain’t nothin’ changed,” but Hathaway writes a reality in which every life changes when it meets the divine, despite and through the sometimes ridiculous means. –Sarah Pruis

Wonder Bread

Hocus pocus:” corruption of  Hoc est enim corpus meum

One teasing April day the mad priest
approached a bakery truck and prayed
the words of consecration. The driver,
a parishioner, called the bishop to buy
every biscuit, loaf, and bun; the whole
cargo, the Body of Christ.

If that priest is still loose
changing substantially everything
he knows how,

what if no one overhears? Kids will
eat those sweetrolls and stop
their breakfast fight; a man slipping
the sandwich from his sack will find
his union dues; the student
over midnight toast sees life and major
work; imagine the flap and chatter aloft,
full of breadcrumbs, the birds.

–Jeanine Hathaway

“Wonder Bread” by Jeanine Hathaway originally appeared in Image 22.

The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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