Monday, June 4, 2018

Quarter-Life Poems: The Baker

The Baker

She baked rolls
in the shapes of animals
a small zoo
swelling and steaming in her oven.

Outside her bakery
the rain spilled from gauzy clouds
people walked by the windows
with umbrellas and wet pant cuffs.

Inside, the welcoming bell jingled
as a young man
walked through the door
into the empty bakery
his eyes were shaped like autumn leaves
and they were the color of pine cones
his rain soaked hair dripped
and rainwater trickled down his neck

in his arms he carried a small cat
her wet fur was sleek against her body
her muscles quivered with cold.
The cat yawned
revealing her rough pink tongue
curled like a fledglings feather.

On the bakery's door hung a sign
sternly warning 'No Pets Allowed."
but the baker watched the cat
knead the young man's arm
just like the baker herself
kneads dough to bake bread
and she  could not ask the man
to leave the cat outside.
The cat closed her yellow eyes
relieved to finally be warm.

The man ordered two ginger cookies
and one animal roll.
"Which animal do you want?"
the baker asked
The man shrugged his loose shoulders
and brought the cat
closer to his chest.

The baker chose animals
for all the people who passed by her window
a turtle for the woman who wandered the streets
living in doorways because she had no home.
A bird for the man with the
long nose and flighty step.

For the young man she chose a lion
thinking of the lion of legend
strong and brave and
gleaming with an unattainable nobility.
Thinking of the lion at the zoo
pacing back and forth
his mane shaggy, his eyes weary
looking almost exactly like the rain soaked cat.

From a lightly chiming pocket
the man pulled out a handful of nickles and dimes
as he dropped the coins into her hands
his finger tips brushed against her palm
and the baker suddenly remembered
when the boy first got the cat
twenty years ago he found her
between the thorned branches of a blackberry bush
the little cat sat mewing
in a rain soaked cardboard box
abandoned on an eve of a rainstorm
and found by the boy
just as the silver sky turned blue.

But no, that was another boy
and that cat died long ago
buried under the same bush
the boy found her
a wooden cross nestled between the thorns.
Now she was just thin bones
and a hollow skull
and the boy was somewhere else
a man now, roaming the streets of some other city.

The baker tried to smile
and offered the man a cup off coffee
that she usually sold for two dollars
the young man tried to smile back
and shyly took the cup of coffee from the baker.

the cat and the man sat at a table together
outside, the rain still fell
swollen drops smacking against each surface

The man nibbled the lion roll
and dipped the ginger cookies into the coffee.
He offered the cat bits of bread
she sniffed each piece before
turning her head toward the window
where she watched a few brave birds
rustling their wet feathers
on neglected telephone wires.

The baker went to the kitchen
to check on the rolls in the oven,
and to knead more slowly rising dough.
Pressing her palms into the fleshy mound
she thought about her laundry
the load she forgot in the washer
clumped together and sopping
and smelling like artificial apple blossoms.
She thought about a letter that
she meant to write three months ago
and wondered when it was to late
to start something like a letter.

when she came back to the front of the bakery
the man was gone
 but the cat still sat at the table
she stared with her yellow eyes
and meowed a gentle 'hello.'

For a moment the baker thought
that everyone in the world had disappeared
except for herself and the cat.
Outside, the rain soaked world
looked emptier than it had in 200,000 years.

1 comment :

Love, Mom said...

I love that poem!! Wow. It is so moving. Thank you.