The Bread I Break
This bread I break was once the oat,
This wine upon a foreign tree
Plunged in its fruit;
Man in the day or wind at night
Laid the crops low, broke the grape’s joy.
Once in this wine the summer blood
Knocked in the flesh that decked the vine,
Once in this bread
The oat was merry in the wind;
Man broke the sun, pulled the wind down.
This flesh you break, this blood you let
Make desolation in the vein,
Were oat and grape
Born of the sensual root and sap;
My wine you drink, my bread you snap.
The Last Supper
They are assembled, astounded, bewildered,
round him who, like a sage centered at last,
withdraws from those to whom he once belonged
and flows beyond them as some foreigner.
The former solitude comes over him
which raised him to perform his profound acts;
again he’ll wander in the olive grove,
and those who love him will now run from him.
He summons them to the final meal
and (as a shot shoos birds from sheaves)
he shoos their hands from bread
with his word: they flutter up to him;
they flap about the table anxiously
searching for some way out. But he,
like an evening hour, is everywhere.
(Rainer Maria Rilke)
The Last Supper
They are at table
They eat not
Nor touch their plates
And their plates stand straight up
Behind their heads.
Bulgarian Icon of the Last Supper
If they saw around his head and theirs the halos—
All would be known. And Judas without a halo
Would not fool anyone. This is true of all such paintings.
But why are the two white parsnips on the table
In the foreground? The upper room crowds in
With slotted windows, spindly pillars, under a small blue dome.
Everyone’s dressed in the gold of holiness, even Judas.
And in Christ’s halo, the letters of his fate are legible.
Anyone looking his way had to know. But those root vegetables,
There side by side, among the three-pronged forks—
They couldn’t be more accurate, less stylized.
And in those loving cups—aren’t those dumplings?
Everything else is flattened into the sacred.
All lineaments are red in the clothing worn, the faces
Long, lined, expressionless, are all alike.
Before each man, a scarlet triangle, like a place card,
Waits, perhaps, to be plucked up and hidden.
In Bulgarian, the words for “Last Supper,” somewhat ambiguous,
Mean “holy or secret, enigmatic, mysterious meal.”
Here, footnoted by dumplings. And a pair of parsnips.
As if to say: “Just as you eat at your house. Any night.”