Plum Cake

I’d make a plum cake when she died,
a lamentation grief-bake, Kaddish through blood-recipe,
all of its colors shrieking at me; a sweet take on her love.
I gaze at the street. Tree branches out front are tangled,
my floor is slanted, my house-cage is so small and dark
for all the summits, slopes, and swamps of feeling.

I am not to be purple-plum-decided in any still-life of grief
or reminiscence, no waferlike religious feeling, never—
she will never be human again. I knew I wouldn’t make it.

Italian plums are sweetest. I should find them in a market
when days are longer; fruit-of-aging, gift-of-goodness.
A friend who lost a friend and made the cake said plum
six times in one paragraph, so full of yearning are our phrases.
Snow-bright is her hair on the bed, knobby knuckle-skin
folded on her chest. She’d be delighted to celebrate her death.

I love that, she’d say happily about the plum-cake wake.
Plums pooled around the cake-slab in the photograph,
bloody and marvellous. Skylight took her in. I couldn’t make it.

Copyright © 2021 by Diane Mehta. This poem originally appeared in The New Yorker (July 5, 2021). Used with the permission of the author.