I rarely write poems. Okay, I never do. I used to, many years ago, and I don’t know what happened, why the poetry ideas dried up. I love reading poems, but I think somewhere along the way my ideas started talking to me in full-on sentences, and paragraphs appeared before my eyes rather than stanzas. I’m not known for brevity, and I usually feel constrained when I impose a structure.

But I’m so inspired by my fellow YARN editor Kate Burak’s poetry prompts this month, I just can’t help myself. Plus my other fellow editor Kerri Majors wrote a cool poem today, which you can read here. So I’m rolling up my sleeves today and actually writing a poem! I think for those of us writing stories and novels, it’s a great exercise to try a different form of writing now and then.

Before I plunge in, let me tell you about how YARN (Young Adult Review Network) is celebrating National Poetry Month. We’re running a poem-a-day project. There are prompts on the YARN website for every day of the month. Every Monday you’ll find seven prompts, one for each day of the week. Today is Day 3. It’s not too late! We’d love to see people’s results and encourage you to share your prompt-inspired poems with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.Tag your Twitter and Tumblr poems with the hashtag #NPMYARN. For Facebook, tag YARN!

Okay, here’s today’s prompt:
Write directions for preparing food.  The food can be simple (a glass of rain) or outrageous (cooking the world’s last antelope)—you decide.

Oh no. Anxiety. Not only do I not write poetry, I do not cook.

Wait a second. I did cook yesterday — it was my son’s birthday and I attempted to make him a cake. I even took pictures of the process. Hmm. Ingredients for a poem in all of that? Maybe? Here goes!


When I take my son’s birthday cake out of the oven,
I nearly drop it in horror.
The cake has sprouted a full set of lips
that seem to smile at me,
or leer,
and narrowed eyes,
You cannot cook, the cake breathes,
emitting a tendril of steam.
You have walked the earth this many years,
become a mother,
and until today,
 you have never made a round cake?
Not even from a box? 
You hold an advanced degree
and you cannot follow five simple steps of directions?

The cake’s pockmarked face shifts and settles
and sighs
as I set the pan on the counter.
The lips protrude into a pout.
Then the corners of the mouth curl up.
I am torn between
immediately sending a picture to a tabloid magazine
(“The Virgin Mary’s face is in my cake!”)
and making a million dollars —
or throwing it in the trash before my son sees this aberration
and is scarred for life.

I opt for the heavy concealer.
I slather on frosting, working fast,
while the cake’s uneven surface heaves beneath
my frantic spatula.

I think of all the childhood cakes my parents bought me
with their neat round shapes,
their even layers,
their perfectly coiled confection roses,
their slight whiff of supermarket refrigerator case,
and I think
yes, that was the way.

I cover up every last bit of the cake,
and all the stress that went into its making —
the skipped step, the out-of-order step,
the incorrect measurement,
the eternal feeling of not measuring up
on the motherhood meter —
and throw handfuls of candy at it when I’m done.

Later that evening,
my son admires the cake,
blows out the candles,
and eats it with both hands,
and my husband says,
“How many kids are so lucky
to have a homemade cake?”

I smile and shrug,
as if I made cakes like this all the time,
as if the cake concealed
no secrets.