for Christine V.
The December you made a poundcake
your mother’s fat cookbooks were stacked
all over the white kitchen.
The cupboards were so high you had
to stand on a wobbly stepladder.
I steadied it as you pulled down
the old china from Sauveterre.
It was painted with tiny roses and vines.
Plates just large enough for a fat slice
of buttery cake, dotted
with gold raisins and crushed pecans.
You couldn’t have been more than fifteen.
That winter you made your way through
Craig Claiborne, James Beard, Julia Child.
I’d see you
chin resting in an open hand, one elbow
on the white table, the other
flipping through stained pages.
That egg yolk yellow cake was just
The moister side of dry
but not dry, so solid
I made a meal of it. Have another,
you said, slicing through the thin brown top
into the golden mass of cake.
a pound of butter, you told me, a pound of flour,
a pound of extra fine sugar.
It’s a recipe that’s
almost not a recipe at all.
You went off to college, immersed
yourself in semiotics, found
a boyfriend, then later,
a husband, a divorce, then
a business partner, then two. You got
a love, a child, a flat that made its way
into the Times Home section.
There have been awards all these years
but not for cakes. There have been
honors, attestations, prizes. You’re famous,
on panels, on juries, you’re in Wikipedia!
Has there been no poundcake? No chipped china
from your grandmere? No recipe that’s
not a recipe at all?
You wore small tortoise shell glasses. Your hair
needed a good cut. You wiped
your buttery hands on your flannel shirt
and scraped the last bit of batter from the bowl.
You licked your fingers, wrapped
dish towels around your hands,
Slid the cast-iron pan into the oven.
Come back in two hours, you told me,
we’ll have cake for dinner tonight.
This poem was awarded an Honorable Mention in the 2015 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Contest, and appears in the 2015-2016 Paterson Review.