Birthday Cake
She’s a cartoon, she’s splashing the spoon,
she’s a mad flapping lab-coat,
dark stream swirling marbling smoothing—
he doesn't like chocolate, he doesn't—
she knew that, she knew,
but this time, this chocolate, this time, surely, besides,
the broken chunk-edges all the way
from Holland were already oozing.
Once all she wanted, storebought, sheet,
her name in script.
And promises next time, next time
a cake for who he really is, like the ones
his mom bought back when,
dense thin layers, marzipan, jam.
Once all she wanted, the rose.
Here cakes come from dreams come from
his dream or her dream the real
problem is his mom's dead.
What cake would she like, hers asked—
answer: spice.
No one knows
what spice she meant.
Allspice cinnamon nutmeg wasn't it.
The mom's hand shielded the candles from kitchen to table.
The boy has made his wish drawn in his breath.
The little holes safely baked in.
Too heavy, he says, too tender, too sweet,
too risen, too ribboned, too spun up in wisps.
They say to beat until light, until the deep yolks
froth, until the color changes.
Cardamom, maybe, next time.
Cardamom, with oily orange zest.

Molly Tenenbaum

Molly Tenenbaum ( received a look of concern from her sixth-grade teacher when, on the sixth-grade campout, she intentionally coated her scrambled eggs with black pepper. Her website is