Cakes Yawp Audio


1963, Wayne Thiebaud

Youssef Helmi

For the man it is the most special of days,

so he is at the shop when its doors open

at eight, though the lights have been on

for hours. The air inside is cold and, like

a harp’s strings, vibrating with the baker’s

work. The musical score to his arrival is

the ovens’ groans rattling through the faded

teal flooring. Behind the register is a wall

with a window, and through it he sees the

cake baker meticulous in how he hunches

to care for every square inch of the two

now-cooling vanilla sponges sleeping side-

by-side. Others wander in for a cursory

look, but the man stays, watching the

baker’s hands spread cloud-white cream

on the face of one disc and spiced-lemon

jam on the other. Then comes the miracle

work of lifting the lemon-spice jammed

disc and setting it atop the coconut meat

spread, circumferences perfectly aligned.

The baker straightens and the man, having

held his breath, exhales, exalted. From

the kitchen to the display, the baker carries

his newborn child, rests it on the bare stage

between the vanilla-frosting swirl cake and

the strawberry-creme valley cake. Pitying

feet take the man to the new creation, hardly

half the height of its brother and sister to

either side, unbearably plain against the

kaleidoscope of confections surrounding it.

He thinks it embarrasing that such a thing

takes the stage in front of the raspberry-

chocolate carousal cake or the twin volcano

cakes coated in vanilla-peach magma.

He thinks it a service if it were taken away,

so he buys it, has the ugly child hidden in

a box. The cake’s weight is pleasant when

rocking at his side on the walk home, and

there, it is placed on the counter while he

hangs streamers and blows balloons. After,

he sets the cake on the plate with the

spiraling hyacinth design. From the room

over, he brings his waking child in his

arms, her still wiping dreams of giant

robots and daring princesses from her

eyes before exclaiming at the sight of

the celebration of the day of her birth.

By the child, a candle is plunged some-

where left of the cake’s center where

it is lit by the man, and when mighty

pieces are cut, for the birthday girl and

him, each bite is soft and delicious, and

for the two of them, the man hums the

smallest of songs.

More poems:

Rainbow Food


Milkshakes in the Rain

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