Wonder Bread builds strong bodies twelve ways

We toured the Wonder Bread factory
our blue and yellow scout uniforms jittering down
the drab aisles of hum and clang.

At the end of the line, we were allowed
our taste of Detroit's assembly-line communion.
Our first factory, and not our last.

The workers silent as we passed,
staring over our heads numb
with what they could not share.

In their own uniforms, bare of arrows
and awards, they disappeared into white bread.
When I got on the bus to go home

all I could think about was the smell
of warm bread emerging from giant ovens.
In the stores, the white loaves

covered in balloon-patterned plastic wrappers.
What were the twelve ways?
My friend stroked his cheek with a warm slice,

his eyes closed. Wouldn't it be great
to work here? he said. When we toured the Stroh's
Brewery years later, he said the same thing.

They offered no tours of auto plants
yet that was where we ended up, parking
our first cars in the enormous lined lots

fenced in, protected. Wouldn't it be
great if communion tasted like this?
Tony said. Or maybe I just thought it.

At home, my mother baked bread
on rare occasions, her misshapen
yeasty loaves waiting in the kitchen

after school. It tasted great
while warm, straight from the oven.
But it hardened quickly, the odd

shapes not practical for sandwiches,
and she made at least a dozen every night
for school and work lunches,

an assembly line of peanut butter
and jelly, bologna and mustard,
brown paper bags initialed

for morning sendoffs. That bakery
is now the Motor City Casino,
and that's what started this--

imagining slots and chips
where bread was once made.
The brewery's gone too, by the way,

by the way, by the way, way side.
We all take communion
in our own twisted way, and we all

pay the price. When it rains, it only
sometimes pours. A money factory, what
could be purer and sicker?

I'm driving my car past that grand old factory,
a building saved by greed,
a rare Detroit victory against rubble.

Twelve ways. I hold up my three fingers
to recite the old scout oath. I make the sign
of the cross and recite the two prayers

I remember. What I remember is
you weren't supposed to chew.
Just swallow and take it on faith.

:: Jim Daniels, in Green Mountains Review (18:2, 2005)

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