Monday, 26 August 2013

Too Sweet by Sarah James

i) expectations                                                

My mother is rolling out icing: her fondant
pressed evenly against a wooden board.
For years, her fingers have been flecked
with white as she cuts and shapes petal
after petal, then wet-sticks these small
thumb-curved ovals together with a tight
pinch at the bottom until this flower,
her work of art, fills the kitchen, spills
out the doorway, through the hall, lounge,
stairs… She places this heavy gift in my hands.                    

ii) ingredients

Dear Mum, let memory repeat it:

eggs, flour, sugar, butter…
After the mixing, the baking.
After the baking, the white icing.

Alternatives in almond essence,
peppermint or vanilla. Add brandy,
sultanas, cherries, peel, any dried fruit.         
Easy on the grated zest and spice.

Always before the icing, the making.
Before the making, eggs breaking.
Before the breaking, raw weighing.

Be sure to first calibrate your scales.                         

iii) in time

Years later now, birthday barbie
is still in her ballgown of roses.

Shelved in my Mum’s cabinet,
alongside a set of silver spoons,

Nan’s best porcelain and memories
unwrapped from crumpled newspaper.

Her pudding-bowled dress has kept
its shape, blossoms from trim waist.

But her plastic arms, dried brittle,
have cracked at the wrists, white

petals break from her skirt.
Powdered sugar layers as dust.

Sarah is a poor baker but an enthusiastic cake and bread taster! Although the chances of her successfully mastering icing are probably lower than her ice-skating a figure-of-eight, she still lives in faint hope. Her first poetry collection Into the Yell (Circaidy Gregory Press, 2010) won third prize in the International Rubery Book Awards 2011 and her most recent collection Be[yond] is published by Knives, Forks and Spoons Press. Sarah's website is at

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