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Teeth On Bread

By Jannah Yusuf Al-Jamil

When we make bread, she tells me,
This is what trust is, as she kneads the dough. You push
your whole weight into something in hope
that it will feed you. I say,
saqadah jariyah, the charity that lasts beyond death. Like
teaching someone how to do something and
hoping that they will remember it after you die. She tells me, That’s why
knowledge is holy.


When the sharp edge of the crust cuts the top
of my mouth, she tells me, as blood
mixes with salted butter,
This is what trust is. I give you something
I made, I pushed and pulled, I give you something to eat
and you eat it
even though it could cut you. I say, tongue poking the sore bit
on the roof of my mouth, It’s good. She smiles.


When I smear roasted garlic on the loaf,
pungent sweetness incarnate, she tells me,
In Spanish, they call garlic cloves ‘dientes de ajo’:
teeth of the garlic. This is what trust is. Teeth on bread. I say,
you know garlic oil can be poisonous if you keep it out? She throws back her head
and laughs. I eat a clove of garlic whole and it is a salve to my cut mouth.


When I leave her, I kiss her on the cheek. She tells me,
When you find someone, make them bread and see
if they see how much you put into it, if they trust you. Grinning, I say,
It's just flour and water. She tells me, That is what trust is. Simple things
becoming something greater. Two people coexisting. It sounds small.

We know it’s bigger than that, don’t we?

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My name is Jannah Yusuf Al-Jamil, I'm a Muslim-American writer who loves baking. My piece, "Teeth on Bread", was inspired by the loved ones in my life, what they've taught me, and my love of bread. I've written a lot of things about bread, but I never really liked any of them, so I asked myself, "What is bread, really?" And I thought it was love, comfort, beauty in simplicity, so that's what I tried to convey.

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