Birgit Bunzel Linder
A Cake, A Stew, And A Thousand Smiles - Poem by Birgit Bunzel Linder
I made a cake. I made it the way you like it.
I added saffron and honey, baked it golden brown.
'It is perfect' you said.
I ran to get plates and forks.
When I got back, you were sleeping.
I touched your shoulder and whispered, 'Your cake...'
You sighed and said, 'I don't want cake. Let me dream of lentil stew.'
I sat down and cried, but I got up again.
I consulted the recipe book and took out the clay tureen.
I added red lentils and onions and garlic and cumin.
I left out the tomato. I sat down and let it simmer in its broth.
I waited for it to become tender, stirring in all the rest.
I decorated your plate with lemon wedges.
But you had left to sit on the roof, a copy of poetry in your hands.
I reached up like trees reach to the sky.
"Your stew, " I whispered.
"I don't want lentil stew. I am longing for soul food."
Your words poured down on me like rain.
I went down and dropped the pot.
The cats came and tiptoed around the steam.
I wiped it off my burning feet.
"Soul food" is not from this world, it is from across the ocean, a secret recipe.
I pour into a dish what I know
cats want: milk.
I feed the cake to the neighborhood children.
They look at me and say, "You have dropped your smile."
"Find it for me, " I say, and they rush out for the hunt.
At night I dream that you come down from the roof to go to sleep.
Your steps are light, your slippers wet.
You sit on the edge of the bed and you ask, "Where is my cake? "
I wake from my own tears and from the door that opens
when you come down from the roof to clean up my mess.
And later in your sleep you whisper...
'We are star-splitters, we are echo birds.'
'We are souls, enchanted with their wings.'
Your breath is not that of a hungry man.
I listen to its rhythm until it feeds me sleep,
and I dream of children
delivering a thousand smiles.
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