This fifth publication of Cake contains exceptional writing, including poetry, fiction, reviews, drama, and interviews. Breauna Roach’s poem “Scrambled” left me a bit unsettled, but there is no doubt as to her genius. Roach begins by revealing her discovery that cupcakes are never found in a garbage disposal, they are sweet desserts that would be shameful to waste; however, eggs are a whole different story:
He scrambles their brains over
the red eye of the stove.
Mixes their would-be legs with
their would-be scalps
He doesn’t realize the fetus dripping
from pieces of shell
is the size of a sprinkle on
Her father scrapes the leftover eggs into the garbage disposal without even considering the potential for life contained within. Roach’s words gave me goose bumps with their raw honesty; however, I appreciate her successful storytelling and poignant images.
Yasbel Fernandez-Acuna’s poem “Speech Therapy” was very tongue-in-cheek and impressed me with its ingenuity. Fernandez-Acuna’s vision of Noah and the Ark was fresh and quite pleasing. The poem begins:
For years I was comforted
by the fact Noah stuttered.
My take on the flood: Noah stuttered
and everyone made fun of him.
God got so mad, he decided to drown
everyone who had ever made fun of Noah.
Everyone has insecurities, and the personal connection Fernandez-Acuna feels toward Noah’s stutter draws us in. I had never considered that Noah may have had a stutter and was interested to read this writer’s account of the flood. In this account, the animals were saved because they can’t talk and therefore could not make fun of Noah. He explains why Noah’s family was saved. Then after presenting his entire theory to the reader, a short stanza finishes off the poem, “Years later I find out / Noah never stuttered, it was Moses / and my entire theory was shot to hell.” This ending made me laugh because we all make mistakes and sometimes try to turn misheard facts into concrete pieces of history. The truth can come out and destroy years and years of theory.
Among the diverse pieces of fiction, Jeff Newberry’s story “An Authentic Life” really stuck with me. Meet the narrator: a guy in high school with poor self-esteem because he is overweight and the son of a garbage man. He only has eyes for Andrea Brown, a popular girl at school who dates Scott, a high school bully and “prick.” The narrator daydreams about getting even:
So you pull up in your used green Nissan, the one your father helped you buy after you got the job sacking groceries at the Piggly Wiggly, and you take a can of gasoline from the backseat. And you walk around Scott’s house, dousing it. Then, you walk around the front of the home and you drop a match and the flames lick up the sides of this perfect suburban dream home, and you enjoy the way the siding curls and melts and how they all run from the house screaming. . . .
But he admits that he is too smart to pull something like that. After all, high school only lasts four years. The narrator does not like to be in front of an audience and tries to stay out of the spotlight. He was bullied throughout high school and when he goes to college, he decides to start over and becomes even more reclusive. He writes plays and excels in the classroom. His screenplay is chosen to be screened with live actors, and he could not be more excited. But the narrator continues to alienate himself, and decides the world is full of conformists and refuses to become one of them. His high and mighty views and behavior push people away, including a new love interest. This well-developed story is a delight.
Alexa Bryant interviews Marita Golden about her most recent book, The Word. When asked about the importance of stories, Golden responds by saying: “We are always telling stories, whether we are gossiping, praying, daydreaming, or writing. Stories hold and create a space for our possibilities as well as our fears. Stories are the engine for all civilizations and all relationships.” Golden sheds light on the fact that we all tell stories, regardless of our occupation or economic standing, and this compact issue of Cake houses some fine examples of just such stories.