“She wants to have baked a cake that banishes sorrow, even if only for a little while. She
          wants to have produced something marvelous; something that would be marvelous even to
          those who do not love her.”—The Hours, Michael Cunningham

When the oven opens (such a slippery
gaping mouth and poetic history),
you'll see I've split apart,
a quite undone confection, center
of fresh cake batter. Slick sugar
and thick on delicate nail tips.

Dip in toes.         Tongue.       Come
into the sweetness. This
the most decadent of beaches
—a flush of heat     and skin, a salted
caramel in contrast.      Eyes lick
around the edges.

This too will run its course        (and kiss)
forgiveness falls
between us.

And when I don't speak
And when I don't breathe
And you have in your lap
the most perfect pastry
won't it be lovely?      Won't it be electric!
That succulent meeting
of this world
and the next.

Or this: Please stop calling me Sylvia &
I’ll resist the urge to keep you as Clarissa.
You don’t bake and I’m the better poet.
Under the umbrella, there is the tug of
you at my heart and the pull of the sky,
a fine unnamed veil of mist between us.
I am constantly reaching to touch you,
to tug you like a doll
from the shelf,
to make you remember.           The swing in the park
the stomp through the cemetery            the hours.
            Please remember I went home and bought
stationery to write you a letter, to tell you I am well
again    to tell you I will stop drinking dinner.
I will run until the sadness ends.
I will lie awake at night,
after the endless asked-for fucking,
and say, of course, this is what the living do,
this is all ok.                 To be alive is sacrifice.
It is not your death
that worries me.

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JEN ROUSE's poems have appeared in Poetry, Poet Lore, Midwestern Gothic, Wicked Alice, Yes Poetry, Anti-Heroin Chic, Crab Fat Magazine, Up the Staircase, and elsewhere. She was named a finalist for the Mississippi Review 2018 Prize Issue and was the winner of the 2017 Gulf Stream Summer Contest Issue. Rouse’s chapbook, Acid and Tender, was published in 2016 by Headmistress Press. Find her at jen-rouse.com and on Twitter @jrouse.