Kim Sisto Robinson
The scent of cinnamon and brown sugar sticks, slithers, slides up my nostrils like an entire childhood. I am gone. I have disappeared into the seventies: the carefree school days, the September moon days, the free-verse poetry days. I evaporate into burnt orange carpet, pea green walls, waxy yellowed linoleum. I write in tablets, hundreds of tablets, page after page of tablets. I skip lines. I scribble. I do not fully understand my own feelings, my thoughts, but mostly, my darkness. I find Plath. She understands me. Who would have imagined a mere stranger could identify so wholly with another stranger?
My mother is a stay-at-home-mother, a goddess; a dream. She is baking ‘real’ cinnamon buns, not the kind from the package. I watch her every move: stepping from one foot to the other, apron strings swinging from side to side like Poe’s Pendulum. I observe her rolling and kneading the dough, and I imagine her strong hands rising and falling upon me, too. I remember. She dissolves butter and smears it all over the swelling dough with her beautiful fingers; her wedding rings are still on, glittering like happy wives. She tells me to grab handfuls of brown sugar, massage it over the dough. She tells me to grab the cinnamon, the pecans, the nutmeg, the love. I do what she says.
I lay on my bunk bed reading, writing, carving boys´ names into the soft oak: Bruce, Gary, Chuck. I sob over all of them like I’ve never sobbed in my entire life, like every ounce of water has poured from my small body. All sensations are heightened, colorful, wildly out of control. I’m a roaring lion. I can’t seem hold on to anything. Everyone disappears. I write about it. I write down my entire damn life, and I’m only thirteen. I break open and write with my heart and my blood. A stranger taught me how to do this. I don’t know why, but the shadows hide when I free them; they scurry away like dirty, worthless cockroaches. I hear the clicking of their stilettos.
Did I tell you my mother is a goddess?
Anyhow, she starts rolling the delectable dough into one long, lush, luxuriant piece of my childhood. She rolls with the immaculate hands of a true baker, Julia Childs, the beautiful manipulation of a devoted mother. Then she cuts and slices the creation, the most glorious sticky buns in the entire world.
O, the love is almost too much to hold inside. I go there often when I need some tenderness, some warmth, something else. I desire to hold the strings of my mother’s tired, old apron forever and ever, to smell the sweet butter on her fingertips, to kiss the cranberry of her Italian mouth.
I try to find myself through poetry. I read verse after verse, metaphor after metaphor, until the black ink gets stuck in my throat. What a lovely way to die.
In middle school I read “Elm:” I am terrified by this dark thing/that sleeps in me/all day I feel its soft, feathery turnings, its malignity.
I understood what Plath was saying. At thirteen, I felt the feathers, too, felt the malignity. Later on, when they tickled my organs and mind, I embraced the wings.
While the buns bake, my mother plays Patsy Cline. Now, that’s a voice. My God, they don’t make ‘um like that anymore. She looks like my mother with that ebony black hair and deep shade of lipstick. I wonder if Patsy bakes buns with her daughter. I wondered about things like that sometimes.
My carpet is hot pink shag. It looks as if somebody puked up bubble gum and cotton candy. I swear; it stands vertical about five or six inches high. It is revolting and remarkable at the same time. When I think of poetry, I think of that pink carpet… where I wrote my poems, where I cried, where I discovered the undiscovered, and where I sprawled out with blank tablets, dictionaries, thesauruses, pencils, and Plath.
We sit at the kitchen table eating warm cinnamon buns. I eat the middle first: the gooiest, stickiest, sweetest portion of all. My mother turns up the volume to Patsy’s “I Fall to Pieces.” She dances around the yellowed linoleum like Pavlova in pink. She is magical, marvelous, miraculous.
This is the reason we have memories, this is the reason we remember...to gather up the warmth for later use.
I survived “thirteen.” You know, because I’m writing this story. I survived the feathery turnings, the puppy love breakups, the gloomy, girlhood days, the Platholian nights, and the black ink still sticks in my throat like a sort of familiarity.
Because no matter how dim and dreadful my life was in those days- as with any thirteen year old, I suppose, I continually had apron strings to grasp onto, gooey buns to delight in, and Plath to articulate my thoughts. Mostly, I had a goddess, who danced in the kitchen to Patsy Cline. She danced on a yellowed linoleum floor…
And she Loved me, Loved me, and Loved me.