the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night




Alison Woods

Baking Cupcakes

It's like me to believe in the good, sweet result
of cupcakes on the eve of my daughter's eighth year.
It's likely I'll go on dissolving butter into flour, laden and rich,
solitary tasks so tender they rise to forget themselves.

I loyally pour into each mold, and take comfort completing this,
the eggbeater's patina of kitchen grease, its dual rounded spoons
like the soul of this home, how they slowly rotate a thick, gooey batter
that fluffs and swells in the bowl. To my daughter I give

these instructions: to prevent catastrophes of the heart, feed
the tray of cakes into the feverish oven. Encounter the old bluish flame;
this past of mine informs yours. In baking you must be exact,
do not be afraid of perfect measurements, but also, use everything!

We'll deliver these to school tomorrow. Classmates will sing to you
(your favorite part, your shy, tentative smile) in the tradition of the best
first grade classes. Useless to speak of cakes that don't arrive, as when
the mother doesn't cook, and the batter can't rise. I love this room;

it's where we learn how to need, swirling disappointments into sugary
confections that we decorate. I have grown to know the kitchen itself
is a part of the recipe, which is also to remember these steps, and repeat them.



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