‘Cakes by Carol’ – a poem by Naima Rashid

 
 

    Cakes by Carol

 

It brought a strange comfort;
somewhere in the folds of fondant
she felt she had stowed away
dreams she had held on to
for too long,
dreams she was too tired
to carry any further.

She was happiest
when the show was on,
in worlds lit up briefly by candles,
ending when the pantomime
was put out by breath.
What did it matter then?
No matter the spectacle,
it was spoof in the end,
a farce made real,
made larger-than-life
by the dance of smoke

smokescreen
sugar-screen

She had dreamt of building
towers of concrete
like the models
in her childhood room
and here she was,
learning to balance
layers of cake
on stilts of sugar.

A twenty-first century woman,
she had thought
breadwinner,
independent -
all words
reserved for men.
Instead of big, fat cheques
that made the world go around,
she was dealing in sprinkles and chocolate chips.
Instead of heading the boardroom,
she was ushered as an excuse,
a side act,
like the clown, only sadder.

They were the real deal -
mommies in Lululemon
who placed the orders
sliding seamlessly
from treadmills to skyscrapers,
suited-up or stripped down at command,
daddies who came gliding in limousines
and told her to keep the change,
always in a hurry
to leave the block.

Her job? Making replicas from replicas,
a painter copying the artefacts of maestros.
She was playing in miniature
what she had failed to play in real.
Google the picture of a perfect life
and build it in marzipan.
Air bubbles have texture when treated right.
Stiff peaks of egg whites,
could they hold a monument
on their weight?
A monument to abandoned dreams,
a Madonna sculpted in dregs.

She needed the sweetness
to swallow the evening
before the evening swallowed her whole.
They were balm for her soul,
the corners she shaved
off the sponge,
odd angles
ousted
by the recipe’s decree.

Those hours passed like thorns
when the kids were asleep
and the man still mid-way
between work and home;
every day
she deferred
a meeting
with herself.
The times she caught her image
in the hallway mirror,
it was a ghost she saw,
wrapped in a shroud of castor sugar,
dirty kitchen of ‘Cakes with Carol’.

He had begun to avert his eyes
at the diabetes ad;
she was way more skillful
at avoiding the truth;
no amount of sugar
could sweeten
what had curdled
deep inside her.

 

Naima Rashid

About Naima Rashid

Naima Rashid is a writer, poet, and translator. Her first book was 'Defiance of the Rose' (Oxford University Press, 2019). Her writings have appeared in Asymptote, The Scores, Lucy Writers Platform, Visual Verse and many other places online and in print. She was long-listed for the National Poetry Competition 2019. Her forthcoming works include a translation of the Urdu novel 'Naulakhi Kothi' by Ali Akbar Natiq (Penguin Random House India 2022), and her own fiction and poetry. Her website is www.naimarashid.com.