Give Us This Day
By Emily Ruth Hazel• Exodus 16:2–4, Exodus 16:11–16, Exodus 16:31, Numbers 11:7–9, 1 Kings 17:1–6, Matthew 6:11–13, Matthew 6:25–27, John 6:1–13
Give us this day, however you slice it,
thick or thin—let this be enough,
at least until the sun, golden
as an egg-brushed Chinese bun, rises again.
Emily Rose Hazel's work reflects on her experiences in Ghana while responding to the theme of “Harvest” and the passages of Exodus 16:2-4, 11-16, 31; Numbers 11:7-9; 1 Kings 17:1-16; Matt. 6:11-13, 25-27; and John 6:1-13 as she builds a poetry collection responding to every theme from the year as a 2013 Spark+Echo Artist in Residence.
Artist Curated by
2 And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness: 3 And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.
4 ¶ Then said the LORD unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no.
11 ¶ And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 12 I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak unto them, saying, At even ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God.
13 And it came to pass, that at even the quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the host. 14 And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground. 15 And when the children of Israel saw it , they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was . And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the LORD hath given you to eat.
16 ¶ This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded, Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man, according to the number of your persons; take ye every man for them which are in his tents.
31 And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna: and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.
7 And the manna was as coriander seed, and the colour thereof as the colour of bdellium. 8 And the people went about, and gathered it , and ground it in mills, or beat it in a mortar, and baked it in pans, and made cakes of it: and the taste of it was as the taste of fresh oil. 9 And when the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell upon it.
1 Kings 17:1–6
1 And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word. 2 And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, 3 Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. 4 And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there. 5 So he went and did according unto the word of the LORD : for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. 6 And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook.
11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? 26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? 27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
1 After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias. 2 And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased. 3 And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples. 4 And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh.
5 ¶ When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? 6 And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do. 7 Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little. 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him, 9 There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? 10 And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. 12 When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. 13 Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten.
The initial inspiration for this poem came to me more than eight years ago, when I was traveling in Ghana. While there, I had the opportunity to attend performances of several classic plays I had seen in the United States (including The Sound of Music and Grease). I loved seeing the different ways these stories were translated through another culture. That got me thinking about ways of reframing the familiar, looking at the same concepts through different cultural lenses.
At the time, I was trying to eat vegetarian, which proved to be a challenge in Ghana. My nearly-daily diet consisted of rice and beans, sweet plantains, and life-changing pineapples and mangoes. My friends insisted that I try traditional Ghanaian fufu. In West and Central Africa (as well as parts of the Caribbean), fufu is a staple food, prepared by boiling starchy vegetables such as cassava root, yams, and/or plantains, which are then pounded until they have the consistency of dough. The traditional way to eat fufu is to pinch off a small portion with one’s right hand, dip it into an accompanying soup or stew, and swallow it without chewing. It’s a filling dish, and I was glad I tried it, although I returned to my standbys.
Around then, I had a conversation with a Ghanaian friend about the phrase “Give us this day our daily bread,” a line from the New Testament passage commonly called The Lord’s Prayer. We were talking about how this verse wouldn’t hit home in the same way for people for whom bread is not a staple food. Half-jokingly, my friend said that the Ghanaian cultural translation should be “Give us this day our daily fufu.” That was the germ of the idea for this poem. I was reminded of that conversation when my exploration of biblical passages on the theme of Harvest led me to words about bread.
Recently, my career transition to freelancing fulltime as a writer has had me thinking about miraculous provision, as in the biblical accounts of God providing manna—a mysterious, edible substance that covered the ground like frost each night when the Israelites were wandering in the desert. This was their “daily bread.” While most of us would prefer to be promised a lifetime supply of bread upfront, often we aren’t promised a year or even a month’s worth, but simply a day’s worth. That measure of uncertainty presses us to trust beyond what we can see and to be expectantly present in each day we are given.
Emily Ruth Hazel is a poet, writer, and cross-pollinator who is passionate about diversifying the audience for poetry and giving voice to people who have been marginalized. Selected as the Honorary Poet for the 25th Annual Langston Hughes Community Poetry Reading in Providence, Rhode Island, she presented a commissioned tribute to the Poet Laureate of Harlem in February of 2020. She is a two-time recipient of national Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prizes and was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for a residency at The Hambidge Center in 2014. Her chapbook, Body & Soul (Finishing Line Press, 2005), was a New Women’s Voices finalist. Emily’s work has appeared in numerous anthologies, magazines, literary journals, and digital projects, including Kinfolks: A Journal of Black Expression and Magnolia: A Journal of Women’s Socially Engaged Literature. Her poetry has also been featured on music albums, in a hair salon art installation, and in a science museum exhibition.
Emily has written more than twenty commissioned works for organizations, arts productions, social justice projects, and private clients. Currently, she is developing several poetry book manuscripts and writing lyrics for an original musical inspired by the life of the extraordinary singer and Civil Rights icon Marian Anderson. A graduate of Oberlin College’s Creative Writing Program and a former New Yorker, she is now based in the Los Angeles area.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Pitts-Wiley