The Scent of Apple Cake

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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