Philosophy of Baking (Crimmins Poetry Prize Honorable Mention)

In the oven there are secrets:
crusts burned and flaked,
black bubbles that still smoke every time she fires up.

She says:

Give me bitter lemons; I will sweeten them.
Give me brown bananas, sour milk.
Give me the chocolate so dark it chokes you.

You train yourself to listen.
Give the oven what she wants,
and she gives you
coconut custard, marble pound,
red velvet cupcakes, cranberry scones.
You tune out the cacophony:
“Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!”
the doorbell bringing women who want
to know if you’re saved,
men who want
to know if you’re saving enough on your gas bill.

Sometimes the oven says
eggs, bacon, gruyere, chives.
And you obey
without hesitation.

Other voices hurl pages
of unwritten poems, echos of your husband’s lover
singing “Oh yes! Oh yes! Oh god, yes!”
And him: “There has never been another woman
so beautiful.”

You don’t listen to them.
You lean in closer to the oven.
Closer still.
Deep inside where it’s quietest.
Maybe today will be your day
to change, to puff and flake,
turn golden and rise
without sinking in the center.

Autumn Konopka’s poems have appeared in Philadelphia Stories, Literary Mama, Crab Orchard Review, Apiary, Schuylkill Valley Journal, and others. In 2014, her chapbook, a chain of paper dolls, was published by the Head & the Hand Press. When not frantically tapping poems into her iPhone, Autumn runs, reads with her kiddos, rewards well-placed semicolons, and watches embarrassingly bad tv.
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