We go to shop in the city.
You dress me in lacy anklets, hair ribbons
and MaryJanes.
We carry patent leather purses (mine holds a little grass toad)
and wear white gloves to afternoon tea.
You light a Salem and blow smoke in my ear, like a secret.

You teach me how to bake
angel food cake,
how to separate white from yellow,
one egg at a time.
I smash the egg against the rim of the blue-ribbed bowl.
You say
Can’t you do anything right?

I gentle my breath and fold thirteen whites into the flour.
You point with a manicured finger.
I sass you, and you raise a seamed palm.
You say
Don’t get snippy with me, young lady.

I am eight, a scrappy girl gone quiet.
Long after the cake is gone,
I drink yolks in lukewarm milk
for thirteen days without flinching.

But at the party I wear a dress of eggshell velvet.
I blow out the candles and wish
for a poultice of words,
a tender hand,
a swirl of smoke.


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