A Literary Magazine in Support of the Jewish Community

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"Cake" by Doren Robbins


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

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.