That Chocolate Cake

I enter through a hole in the metal fence,
hold thin to skim the rippers.
Beyond the woods, the golf course
where I rescue stray balls from the driving range.
I pocket the ones with busted skin
to slice open with a knife at home,
hours of prying off white armor
to unspool miles of rubber guts.
Strings pop from the wound,
unspin from tight coil to limp pile.
A lady sees me near the course,
invites me to play house.
I am sweet daughter, she kind mother.
Every week she bakes me a cake.
Tawny waves of cream crest off the surface,
curls of beckoning palm, sugared tongue.
In muddy shoes, and jacket bulged with balls,
I eat my slice. She asks about my family,
why I’m not in school. I make stuff up,
eat another piece. In the woods going home,
a shock of yellow-jackets sting my neck.
Welts cut off my breath.
He knocks me to the dirt,
pushes hard, my back grinds
into the roots. Something breaks
at the top of my inside as golf balls fall
from pockets, endless threads of rubber
spool out around us, hands of rubber, legs
of rubber, blood-dirt-slime there.
After the first time it will never hurt
again, he says. Stretched elastic scar
rubs against the branches overhead.
The fixed world snaps, no more
give. Months after the last slice,
after the woods wrenched out my yearning
for cake, my yearning for the cake lady,
she calls to me in the grocery, calls
my name. I make a stranger’s face,
turn away, turn towards my mother
in the checkout line. That chocolate cake
frosted and layered on a
glass plate. Dirt.

from Connotation Press: An Online Artifact,, December 2010