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A Morsel of Bread, A Knife
by Roberta P. Feins
82 pages 39 poems
Price: $18.00
Publisher: Center on Contemporary Art
To Order:


A Morsel of Bread, A Knife, is a book of poems which interweaves the author's
and the author's mother's life stories with meditations on French tourism, visual
art, history, and cuisine.

Key words: troubadours, PanAm flight bag, goddess, escargot, Auvergne valley,
cave paintings, motherhood, cheese-making, crusade against the Cathars, warnings
to daughters, croissants, feminism, reliquary, Last Judgment, dualism, reminiscence,
Tarn river, Parkinson's disease, the burden of art, blue jeans, mechanical puppets,
vineyards, why is life like an olive?, celtic gold and cabochon.


A Morsel of Bread, A Knife integrates…themes of sustenance and separation by
moving at times robustly, at times, delicately, through space and time…Feins'
outward and inward journeys remain unique and memorable to the reader.
—Judith Skillman, author of sixteen collections of poetry, including Kafka's Shadow

Given the attention to art, given the poet's highly visual imagination and
extraordinary recall of tiny memories that swell up into staggering moments
of recognition and truth, A Morsel of Bread, A Knife provides a strong and apt
contribution to the Center on Contemporary Art's Occasional Monograph Series.
—David Francis, Series Editor

There's also a thirsty loneliness wandering this book, which I admire as evidence
that Feins acknowledges both enigma and fact: the "Black Virgin of Rocamadour,"
after all, is made of both gold and wood that has "endured centuries of soot and
smutch,/…now pressed coal, harder/than any god".
— Judith Vollmer. Professor at Drew University MFA Program in Poetry & Poetry in Translation.


Roberta P. Feins was born in New York, has lived in North Carolina and in Seattle
since the early 1980's. She has degrees in Social Science (BA) and Marine Ecology
(MS), and has worked building databases and applications for various government

Roberta received her MFA in poetry from New England College, where she studied
with Judith Hall, DA Powell, Carol Frost and Alicia Ostriker. Her poems have been
published in Five AM, Antioch Review, The Cortland Review and The Gettysburg
, among others. Prizes include First Prize in Poetry, Women in Judaism's
2010 Writing Competition, and Second Place in the 2007 Society for Humanistic
Anthropology Ethnographic Poetry Competition. Roberta has published two chapbooks:
Something Like a River (Moon Path Press, 2013), and Herald (Autumn House Press, 2017),
which won the 2016 Coal Hill Review Chapbook Prize. Her first full-length collection,
A Morsel of Bread, A Knife, was published in 2018 by the Center on Contemporary Art,
Seattle. For close to twenty-five years, Roberta has been an editor of the e-zine
Switched On Gutenberg.


Cuisine of the Mother Country
by Roberta P. Feins

My Romanian grandmother made mamalige—
pouring out a coarse yellow moon of cornmeal
onto a wooden board. I never tasted
this polenta from my motherís hands.

Instead, she cooked the dishes of her German
grandmother: pot roast, chopped liver, matzo
balls. (A joke had Marilyn Monroe asking
what other part of the matzo do they use?)

Even Julia Child on TV didnít improve
Momís cooking: mashed potatoes poured—
instant powder—from a foil pouch,
crisp Chow Mein noodles from a separate can.

I was the one who took to cooking—
cave of the body, its call to be fed Ė
who spent my allowance on Manhattan adventure:
the Museum of Modern Art, lunch

at a tiny bistro on 53rd Street.
At 14 I first tasted escargot—
tiny fork probing the spiral shell.
I learned to wipe buttery sauce from the dimpled

metal dish with a chunk of fresh bread
torn from a demi-baguette, to savor appetizers,
move on to further pleasures, worship
at the portable altar of my body.

"Cuisine of the Mother Country" first appeared in the chapbook Herald (Autumn House Press 2017).  

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