Monday, December 22, 2014

The Cake Makers (poem)

In the gloom of a large country kitchen--
think back to Southern plantations,
with sideboards and planked floors,
live oaks silhouetted at the windows,
sunrays dappling a long crooked table
that dominates the center of the room:

Around it, a dozen Aunt Jemimas, black
as cast iron pots, kerchiefs ‘round their hair,
sit on wooden chairs- animated, laughing,
softly gossip, rolling eyes. Palmetto hand
fans push back against the ovens’ heat.

This reoccurring reverie is more obsession
than daydream, might once have been REM
slumber, but now it’s daily haunting
that opens me to the wall where reality
and illusion intersect; a tomb of secrets,
hiding places for all those images
that are not understood. The Cake Makers
escaped one night and won’t return,
their voices like syrup on a summer wind.

My mind wants to know why I dream
of slaves. Downton Abbey of the Civil War.
Look for yourself in dreams, a therapist said.
The cliché is always just a shortcut to yourself.

But wait! It is what the cooks do that matters.
Newly-baked cakes sit before them, aromas
of lemon and coconut, vanilla and chocolate
doesy-doe in the air. Mounds of pastel frostings
gleam in bowls: soft peach, butter-yellow, and pink.

The colors leap in contrast to the black hands,
the white aprons, the sepia stain of the old walls.
The Cake Makers beckon me. Come ice the cakes,
they call. I don’t want to move. I don’t know how.
Come, they titter, come. It’s time.

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