This poem originally appeared in The Sun Magazine, September 2010.
When my mother died,
one of her honey cakes remained in the freezer.
I couldn’t bear to see it vanish,
so it waited, pardoned,
in its ice cave behind the metal trays
for two more years.
On my forty-first birthday
I chipped it out,
a rectangular resurrection,
hefted the dead weight in my palm.
Before it thawed,
I sawed, with serrated knife,
the thinnest of slices —
The amber squares
with their translucent panes of walnuts
tasted — even toasted — of freezer,
a raisined delicacy delivered up
from a deli in the underworld.
I yearned to recall life, not death —
the still body in her pink nightgown on the bed,
how I lay in the shallow cradle of the scattered sheets
after they took it away,
inhaling her scent one last time.
I close my eyes, savor a wafer of
sacred cake on my tongue and
try to taste my mother, to discern
the message she baked in these loaves
when she was too ill to eat them:
I love you.
It will end.
Leave something of sweetness
in the mouth of the world.