The scent of apple cake
by Marge Piercy
My mother cooked as drudgery
the same fifteen dishes round
and round like a donkey bound
to a millstone grinding dust.
My mother baked as a dance,
the flour falling from the sifter
in a rain of fine white pollen.
The sugar was sweet snow.
The dough beneath her palms
was the warm flesh of a baby
when they were all hers before
their wills sprouted like mushrooms.
Cookies she formed in rows
on the baking sheets, oatmeal,
molasses, lemon, chocolate chip,
delights anyone could love.
Love was in short supply,
but pies were obedient to her
command of their pastry, crisp
holding the sweetness within.
Desserts were her reward for endless
cleaning in the acid yellow cloud
of Detroit, begging dollars from
my father, mending, darning, bleaching.
In the oven she made sweetness
where otherwise there was none.
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