They always had that cheap yellow cake. It was junk
to me. Not Ukrainian poppyseed synagogue anything
else cake. What they were where they arrived. How
protective were they to the point they’d blame the
floor for wearing out your shoes. I never saw them
express self-doubt. I knew their expressions, knew
them fifty-nine years. When they told you it would be
there, it brocaded where they said it would be. You’re
worthless without dependability. If you didn’t eat the
cake—they gave you a look like you were lost—then
another look to overlook what they expressed in the
“how did you get so lost look.” I didn’t know for
nineteen years the desertion that made them wild.
Shame to the point of resentment plain and pre-
dominant. I’d come in, the cake was there on the
table. Sometimes we had it out. The root of the
arguing happened underneath whatever else was
going on. The frustrated account. Cake became their
habit. It had to be agreed to with some forgiveness.
To the expression of a plea with some begrudgement.
It used to be one of those two cutting me a piece of
cake. Me resisting. I don't know what comes first,
the lust for sugar, the bitter person.
Doren Robbins' work has appeared in many publications over the years, including Sulfur, Lana Turner, The American Poetry Review, Cimarron Review, Exquisite Corpse, The Iowa Review, Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas, Nimrod, and Salt. His books have been awarded the Blue Lynx Poetry Award 2001 and the 2008 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Poetry Award. Twin Extra: A Poem in Three Parts from Wild Ocean Press was nominated for the 2015 Jewish National Book Council Award in Poetry. In 2021, Spuyten Duyvil Press published Sympathetic Manifesto, Selected Poems 1975-2015. He was Professor Emeritus at Foothill College until 2022.