Mom had made dozens
of little red velvet cupcakes
for Chlora’s classroom Valentines party.
She had gotten a littlestir crazy
and she just kept doubling the recipe.
She was sifting through her own memories,
with measuring cups and spoons
on stand-by in case she wanted
to sacrifice speed for accuracy.
As the Good Book says,
the measure you give
will be the measure you receive.
The entire countertop was
cluttered with ingredients by the time Chlora
came home from school that day.
Mom didn’t even notice her due to the
When it was turned off, splatters of pink
were everywhere, and Chlora
asked to lick the beaters.
“Not yet, we’re making another batch.”
Mom dumped two heaping cups of Crisco
into the bowl along with half a bag of sugar.
She expertly cracked eggs into the mix,
pausing to flick one bit of eggshell
out of the batter.
Nobody likes to eat eggshells,
much less walk on them.
She let Chlora squeeze a half bottle of
red dye No. 40 into the batter.
That pink stuff had staying power,
and it probably gave a whole
generation of kids ADHD.
Worse yet, it’d turn them into communists.
They were both amazed as the
solemn, blood-red drops
of food coloring stretched into
streaks of fuschia in the pale batter
and gradually overtook it,
assimilating the whole batch into bright pink.
The social swirl kicked up its heels
but anybody could see
it was getting more and more the same.
That is where we all live, mesmerized
by the swirl, until somebody has the good sense
to pour the forgotten cup of buttermilk in there
and upset the monotony.
Chlora sat on the end of the counter,
slyly observing, with her nose buried
in The Cat in the Hat Comes Back.
The Cat was sitting in the bathtub eating cake,
and he left a thick bathtub ring of pink goop.
When they tried to clean it up,
it just split into smaller blobs and
stained everything in sight.
The Cat brought out little clones
from under his hat to take care of things,
but they only made it worse.
The little cats and the pink spots
multiplied like the loaves and fishes.
Mom should have a clone too.
Splats of pink batter flung itself
from the bowl as the beaters slowed down.
“Wait till those beaters are totally off, “
Mom warned, “or it’ll cut your finger off.”
Chlora finally dipped in, receiving
the caution thatraw eggs could give you
salmonella, which is why they don’t sell turtles
in the pet store anymore.
It did not matter that this connection
between eggs and turtles did not make sense.
Everybody knows cake batter
is always better before it gets baked,
and turtles all migrate
to the beach to lay their eggs.
The situation went downhill from there, as
Chlora stepped in some batter and spread
salmonella all over the white linoleum floor.
At last she got ahold of both beaters.
Not only was that a real tongue twister,
all her mouthy parts came out ruby red
like a movie star. Marie Antoinette
herself would be pleased.
Chlora gave a wide, red smile and quipped,
“Let them eat cake!”
Marie Antoinette pretended to be a peasant
and look where that got her.
Her finger didn’t get chopped off, her head did.
She liked to play house and cook.
She probably didn’t even have a regulation
mixer bowl to use at Versailles,
so she’d grabbed one of those fancy gilded
Sevres bowls out of the etagere.
Mom replied that Marie Antoinette did NOT
say that bit about eating cake.
She’d been posthumously framed by some
hot-shot philosopher. The Queen
had actually had a big heart for the poor.
She just wasn’t ever allowed near them.
Chlora imagined Marie Antoinette
exposing her frilly underwear while
wildly whipping up cake batter.
The Queen showed considerable
concern for the multitudes,
but they turned on her.
Mom spooned the pink batter
into several more mini cupcake tins,
and Chlora murmured:
“just what ARE we feeding the multitudes?”
The little cakes came out of the oven tray by tray
and Chlora helped make the icing by getting
a pound of butter out of the fridge
and ripping open a bag of powdered sugar.
Sugar exploded into an angel cloud,
sweetening up the air. That white icing
made your teeth hurt.
These made-from-scratch cakes never look
as pretty as those from the bakery,
but they sure tasted better.
However, they might give you the pink eye.
Adaptation of Phillip Guston’s Painter’s Forms
Mom loaded up three big Tupperwares
with the burgundy cupcakes.
She froze one container for the school play
and the rest went with Chlora
for the Valentines party.
Mom and Chlora vowed to never
make red velvet cake again.
The school janitor told Chlora’s teacher
that he had to work overtime to double-mop the
classroom as red cake crumbs
were tracked all the way out into the hall.
They clung to desks and fingers and textbooks
for days, only proving that
if you don’t deal with your own mess
you will surely inflict it upon others.
“Out, damn’d spot! Out, I say!”
Lady MacBeth and Marie-Antoinette
shook their heads at the Cat in the Hat
“That just beats all I ever saw.”