agreed to meet him
at a restaurant on MacDougal
even though it was his birthday
a day for seeing friends.
As he pulled out my chair
I watched his head spin
as the dessert cart rolled by
eyeing it like a tight skirt
atop a pair of long legs.
Delight spread across his face
as the idea came
to skip the meal
and go right to the cake.
The awkward suggestion
came across as desperate
too quirky, too soon
And while I agreed
I knew right then he wasn’t for me.
With the dessert tray tableside
before drinks or customary small talk
he pointed to the angel food
delicate and sitting pretty under a glass dome
like a princess patiently waiting her turn.
Angel food, he told me, was what his mama made
the reward for the silence he kept
he didn’t explain
but the droop in his shoulders told me the rest.
He described how she painstakingly beat
the egg whites–a dozen of them
until they erected into a stiff froth
and became light like angels’ wings.
Too much, too soon.
It was a heavy conversation,
that took place between the lines
as told by the deep gorge
furrowed into the canyon of his shifting forehead.
“They are whipped into shape”, he whispered, lowering his gaze,
“The egg whites, it’s the whipping that lightens them.”
I watched the fluffy cake touch his lips like clouds
in search of some heaven where angels
sang hymns of joy instead of stuffing some silence in where it didn’t belong.
A real meal would’ve done him well
It was clear he was starving
Truth’s acceptance takes time
Salad, meat, potatoes. A sip of strong coffee.
He ate his piece and then mine
I’d chosen the carrot cake;
rooted and beefy with walnuts, raisons, cream cheese
Earth food, as far as cake goes.
He spoke of religion and philosophy
a carefully curated conversation
that didn’t interest me
anticlimactic, there was no road back.
What I could so clearly see was what he tried to hide;
that his back had scars where there should have been wings.
I doubt he remembers me, or that clumsy day where I couldn’t decide
if inside he was actually dead or alive,
but dessert isn’t a reward for anything
and angels aren’t all sweet like we dream of
and waiting, I still tell myself, is its own kind of love.
Jenifer Fox is an author, educator, poet who writes about landscapes, both exterior and interior and the days that have shaped her understanding of life. She has degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Middlebury College's Bread Load School of English and Harvard University. Her nonfiction books have been published by Viking/Penguin and Jossey-Bass.
"At age 53, I divorced from a marriage that was, by all accounts, a good one. The reasons don't matter here, what matters is what followed, a ten year journey into darkness, doubt, and loss through self-acceptance, deep personal growth, a few more hardships and finally emerging into a new life to discover the greatest love of my life. This poem represents the early days when dating was a stream of disillusionment. I met so many men who were somehow defective and broken. This really startled me, how people could get so far in life and not have healed any of the issues that caused them to be alone. I was determined to discover myself and bring into my world the kind of strong, honest people that I feel I deserve to surround myself with. At fifty, this journey takes on a new uncertainty. there are no guidebooks, no rules, no expectations for the second half of life starting out alone, and starting g over. My poetry reflects this journey and my hope is that others will recognize this path."