“The Family Legacy” by Jane Simpson, published in The Poeming Pigeon: Poems about Food, released April, 2015 by The Poetry Box.
The Family Legacy
~ for Lois
Emily Dickinson would have baked
this cake when she sent gifts to offer
neighbors the solace of food. Her words
were tied in ribbons in the bedroom.
The recipe comes dog-eared and greasy,
the words of women who made homes and cakes,
only the butter and eggs tempered
to fill mouths, block verbs that choke stories.
This cake serves as a peace offering for rage,
a trough for sweetness. It’s batter to fill
the veins of women drained of bloods
they let for their children and husbands.
The women who make this cake cream butter
and sugar so light it’s the softness they
touch — they use the tip of a little finger
to scoop a meager feeling onto the tongue.
The bakers beat their strain into eggs, pour
ease onto edges of bad days, then fold
in flour with a purpose that never
spills beyond their wilted aprons.
The women have an instinct for timing,
a nose that permeates hot ovens.
They know exactly when the cake is done,
lift up comfort and slice it into grandeur.