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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Cooking or Baking (01/04/07)

TITLE: The Death of The Achilles Baker
By Ryan Tribble


"Are there any as great as I?

More skillful with pot and spice?

Can any match my apple pie?

See for yourself, and have a slice."

With song the baker boasted.

Who could deny, his slice of pie,

With Arachne's smirk, he roasted?

For this dish, who would not die?

No ordinary baker, but a king,

With a kingdom, chained by the nose.

Of his crowning pastry, all did sing.

All his fattened slaves feasted in repose.

"No warrior's sword can defeat my pan.

Who would not bend a knee and drool?

That fool, from my kingdom ban.

The world I challenge, to a duel."

Bakers, men and women, from East and West,

Bakers, of every skill, grill and spice.

But against this Achilles baker, fell the best.

For his secret, none could pay the price.

Then arose a man, with Athena's stance.

A Hector armed with Paris's bow,

With Nestor's brow, and Jupiter's glance,

Arrows aimed for Achilles' heel of pride-full sorrow.

"What's this? One more to match my dish?

Another man to bring me glory?

I will make you beg for one taste of my fish!

Not apple pie, but my bread will bring victory."

Then the stranger spoke to the baker king.

"Boast you may of your bread and pie.

Not flour, yeast or spice, but another thing,

For this pie, not you, but I will die."

"Stranger, you speak in riddles, but never-mind.

Let us compete, and taste the greatest feat."

The baker mixed the dough; he could do this blind.

The judges smiled, filled with pastries sweet.

The stranger dropped to his knees, the baker scoffed,

"So I've humbled you before the dough is done?"

To this the stranger smiled, and laughed.

"Humbled I am, but the game is not won."

Dirt the stranger gathered, and began to heap.

Then he poured water and began to knead.

The baker laughed, but the judges began to weep.

"No mud pie, or we will die judging this foul deed!"

"Stranger, do you blaspheme the work of crafted hands?"

The stranger replied, "Indeed hands of wonder,

No greater skill for bellies full, within these lands.

With those hands I give my mud splendor."

"Do not mock me stranger! I'm an artist!

An artist without heart is like a river without water.

My heart is my seasoning, the very truest.

What say you stranger? Are you greater?"

"You're a seasoned artist, but your heart seasoning lacks.

No, it is proud, puffed with venom yeast.

Within the furnace, yeast must die upon the racks.

With your heart, I season my mud, to humble at the least."

"Indeed, I'm proud! From my hands you will eat!

I can fricassee tarantulas, or boil chicken soup!

In the kitchen, to and fro, I'm the fastest on my feet.

I recall all by memory -- spice and spoon, my every troop."

Thus the stranger in reply, "To my mud your every gift,

Even now it is like sand castles upon the shore,

To crumble before a humble wave. Chaff, fire will sift,

Test and try our works, to shine for ever more."

With the aroma the judges frothed, their bellies gurgled.

The baker mocked, while the stranger smiled,

Children played, in dance and song, then pies they hurdled.

Painful joy, a kingdom drunk, and parties running wild.

Then emerged, the baker's bread, and all the judges cheered.

With each slice of bread, all sorrows dead.

But the stranger's dish, the baker jeered, the judges feared.

The baker's bread, oh what joy; but this other -- what dread!

"Tell me stranger, is this a sculpture, or a dish?"

The stranger smiled, "a dish to serve its bearer.

Bread that makes bread, or anything you wish;

But baker king, gaze upon this in wondrous terror.

"A mere statue that lacks its maker's breath,

The maker's kiss upon its lifeless lips, what wonder.

Apart from this breath, life or death?

Who is it, that holds your gaze? On this ponder."

Thus the baker in reply, "Is glory found in mud pie?

What baker can give flavor to mere mud?

Who beckons at my door? For this pie, who will die?

Beneath that breathless chest of stone, no thumping thud."

Then emerging from the mud, the baker king.

In his heart, perished pride, a fallen keep.

This world vanished like a dream with bitter sting.

Achilles died, and the baker awoke from eternal sleep.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Donna Powers 01/11/07
There's so much in this poem that I had to read it twice. I feel as though I am reading one of the ancient legends and yet its message is relevant for our times. Very creative and very stirring.
Joanne Sher 01/14/07
This definitely felt like an ancient tale with much to teach us. Well done.
Phyllis Inniss01/15/07
I like how you crafted the myths of Greece and Rome into your poem to teach an important lesson. Well done.