Looking Back at the Sweetness of Fate

Lemon Cake

“You cannot eat your cake and have it too.”

“Many hands make light work.”
“Too many cooks spoil the broth.”
–Common Proverbs

In those years of privation,
seeking salvation in sparks of hope and glory—
quiet desperation, ceaseless threats, a story
overtold but left bereft, unlearned
through epochs here or anywhere–
in bombs’ red glare and burning air–
I dreamt of cake,

and of Mother and aunts—too many hands
at mixing stands,
beating butter and eggs, then sifted flour,
timing minutes turned to hours—
and there I sat,
a bud within the warmth of light-filled bower.

Now, when cake comes at any time–
with coffee, or perhaps some wine,
without the help of the long-lost many,
the cake’s too sweet—I’m spoiled by plenty.

This poem is not autobiographical. It’s for my dVerse prompt today. Come join us as we write poems influenced by proverbs.

82 thoughts on “Looking Back at the Sweetness of Fate

  1. This is beautiful, Merril.
    I am just finishing up yesterday’s dVerse quadrille and now am inspired to have a continuation of that one for your prompt… not till tomorrow, though 😉

  2. Oh my goodness this is absolutely exquisite, Merril! I am especially moved by; “a story overtold but left bereft, unlearned through epochs here or anywhere–in bombs’ red glare and burning air–I dreamt of cake.” 💝💝

  3. a glorious panoply of proverbs in the mix here – that first verse is packed with feeling imagery and this line is pure poetry
    “and there I sat,
    a bud within the warmth of light-filled bower.”

  4. This rings so true. I think a lot of immigrants took refuge in their cuisine, baking things that reminded them of home. I can see all those generations of women in the warm kitchen, the solidarity of poverty and difference.

  5. There is more appreciation for things in scarcity. Those good old days where ingredients were scraped together, the cake did taste much better. Good writing, Merril.

    • Thank you so much, Luanne.
      You know, I hadn’t quite thought of it that way–but now you have me thinking of all the times I made a cake for my mom or some family get together–out of love. ❤️

  6. Superb. I’m pleased it is not autobiographical. When I was a child I ate orange peel as well as the fruit, because I didn’t know when I would get another. I still quite like it.

  7. I love these lines: “and there I sat,
    a bud within the warmth of light-filled bower.” It does remind me of the long-ago days when my mom bakes pies from scratch. Usually on Sundays when I was at Sunday school. And there were the Sunday dinners which were a lot of work–the cooking and cleaning up–but it was also a social time with family … although usually the men were in the living room watching sports on TV while the women were in the kitchen doing the cleaning up. Some change is good 😉

    • Thank you, Marie.
      My mom didn’t bake much (and never a pie). I sort of taught myself when I was a teen, and then became the baker–and both my grandmothers died when I was very young. Yeah, when they were together my dad did not do the cleaning, but my husband does!

      • It used to annoy me when the men (including my brother) would go off to watch TV. To this day, I can’t stand the sound of baseball games on the TV. Every Sunday, all summer long (eye roll). Fortunately, Greg does not watch sports … actually, he doesn’t even follow sports which totally perplexes my family 😉 And he’s the baker in our two-person family. Well, banana bread. He bakes that … a lot 😉

      • That’s so funny. My mom and sisters didn’t watch sports, so I didn’t grow up with it. My husband watches (or sleeps through) them 😏, but he will turn them off to watch something with me or go somewhere. I was thinking I hadn’t had banana bread in a while. . . .

  8. Wow! This one is special.
    I come from a pie family, and my Baba taught me how. I spent hours with her while she did all you spoke of, except after all that time spent a pie came out…not cake.
    The “too sweet” … I get it! So, now I bake pies with no sugar. Perhaps a splash of maple syrup, or drizzles of a fruit juice.
    Then I can eat plenty!

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