Slice of Life – Sourdough and Sad Thoughts

October 17, 2023

The news this week is painful. So many questions, so much pain in Israel and Palestine. Pain for the past seven decades, and more pain in the future too. God, please help.

The slices in my life recently seem to include sadness and questions and worry about how to be a better global citizen, but here is a small moment that happened this morning. In 2020, for the first time ever, I made a sourdough starter in Bahrain, along with many other people who were home during the pandemic lockdown.

When I moved back to California, I brought a small bottle of sourdough with me in my carryon. I nurtured it, used it, and gave some to my daughter. Over the year in Minneapolis, she improved my process and products of sourdough bread. Meanwhile in California, inadvertently I let my own sourdough die.

When I came home from my daughter’s last month, I returned with a small jar of sourdough in my carryon. It’s from the same batch I started in 2020. Now it’s healthy again and living in my fridge. This morning I started a loaf of bread.

The sadness is getting into my Inktober poems…

October 15 – dagger
knocked, assaulted, choked, stabbed
dozens of times: mother and son
hate crime, unthinkable escalation
Gaza war exported to Chicago by a
monster of a man who once
built a treehouse

Read more about Wadea Alfayoumi with a gift article from me at Washington Post.

October 16 – angels
when times are oppressive
God’s protective calming cloud
peace in the world

October 17 – demon
Who will
cast out
the demon
of hatred?
How will
anyone be able
to pay for the
What will
bring justice
and peace?

more here

8 thoughts on “Slice of Life – Sourdough and Sad Thoughts

  1. There’s a beautiful metaphor here, Denise, passing on the staff of life after it seems there is no life left, from mother to daughter to mother. You, poet that you are, can use that: “it’s healthy again.”
    I wonder if you’ve read Pádraig Ó Tuama’s latest substack: “On language during a time of horror. I think you’ll appreciate it. Don’t stop trying.

  2. Denise,
    Maybe your sourdough can be a metaphor, the starter for something more hopeful rising from the death and detritus of war. I think about the privilege of an afternoon nap as children die in a hospital, and I have no words for such sadness. I know the Jewish community hurts. They have endured unspeakable evil. I know the Palestinian community hurts. They too know the pain of war. There are no winners here.

  3. I love the sourdough starter coming back to you, a chance to try again. I am filled with sadness and heaviness about Israel and Palestine; I repeat, “God, please help.” I see your struggles with this, how it is very much on your mind, in the lines of your poetry. The murder of the little boy in Illinois was so horrific. The question on Oct 17th’s – How will
    anyone be able/to pay for the/atrocities? – is particularly thought-provoking. There is so much pain all around. It really hurts. Thank you, Denise.

  4. “God, please help,” is right. That sourdough looks like the absolute perfect consistency. I like seeing your hands fully involved in the kneading. Making things with my hands has always been an antidote to grief.

  5. The sourdough pictures and story are beautiful – and what a metaphor for things going on in the world. I like that you shared the picture of the bread making! I wish I had kept up with the InKtober words. Your poems make me

  6. Denise – this is such a powerful post – Your sourdough slice and its journey from life to death back to life again. I had wanted to write about my thoughts on the Gaza/Israeli war but didn’t know how to blog about it. I wrote this poem and share it with you because I know you will understand. Thank you.

    October Mourning

    October, a time of harvest,
    a time of plenty and celebration,
    of joyful dancing and rejoicing.
    Seven festive days of thanksgiving,
    commemorating of the Jews’
    escape from in Egypt,
    wandering in the desert
    for forty years to find the promised land.

    Sukkot – time of happiness,
    possibility opens to everyone.
    God rebuilds a brighter future,
    built upon the scars of the past,
    but not defined by those scars.
    They seek grace and peace,
    grateful for their abundance,
    gathering together as one.

    Build sukkahs out of simple stuff,
    temporary and easily broken –
    palm, myrtle, willow, citron,
    The Four Kinds bless the space,
    prayers and blessings sent out
    to all of creation,
    joyful in their dancing,
    rejoicing in their bounty.

    Suddenly, joy is accosted, smashed,
    dragged through the street by her hair,
    held hostage and humiliated,
    all innocence taken.
    The citron rolls off the harvest table
    into the bloodied rubble streets.
    Abandoned, dirty, and trampled,
    alone – leaving a bitter taste.

    1. Oh, Joanne, my heart is breaking again. You bring so much of how it was in the midst of celebration. These lines stopped me in my tracks…”joy is accosted, smashed,
      dragged through the street by her hair,”

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