By Jean Macpherson
The rich creamy center of a Boston Crème, or the frightening sugar shock of a glazed donut. There is nothing delicate about the gut-heavy sensation of fried goodness. I made donuts for the first time for Hanukkah this year, piped them with strawberry jam or chocolate-hazelnut filling. And then, a few months later I find “Donut Parade” by Laura Read in Jelly Bucket for Reading number 3, 2012. And it all comes back to me.
Her poem is summer; the boring summer following high school’s end; the summer where good girls work all day, party all night. Boys too, but it’s not about them this summer. In this summer girls dominate the kitchen heat, provide the service, and make claim to their bodies. This is the summer before life begins in the fall, a concrete summation as reality approaches: college begins, or you succumb to full-time working life, or maybe a combination of both. Regardless, this is the summer youth ends:
That was the summer I got up
in the middle of the night
to squirt raspberry filling and cream
into maple bars, a layer of grease
crackling and shining around them
like a spirit of goodness.
We are all adolescent for a short period of time, discriminate in our own ways, very choosey about everything. Rebellious in others in how we use our bodies or lend them out for a peek:
I put fresh Old-Fashioneds
on mint green plates and dropped coffee
into plastic mugs. I let men pour
their old eyes down my hairless legs,
lift their cups for more.
I remember pride in keeping my body sexualized for the enjoyment of others. A look obtained from one to another is like entrapment, deceiving one into something they might regret, or never experience. You know what you’re doing; it is not always a matter of feeling good for yourself but the desire to accept an obtrusive glance where they take a part of you to their memory and do with you what they will and it is out of your control. Maybe you never thought it through that far, maybe you have. Maybe you have a memory like I do:
Summer, 1984. You and three girlfriends hanging out for the day and you think it would be fun to walk around town in your bathing suits knowing there’s no swimming hole for miles. You’re lucky if there’s a stream nearby to dip your feet. You just recently discovered your body; all those prayers to God and exercise have sprouted something beautiful below your neck. Your legs have developed shape, a special curve appears between ankle and heel; no stick figures allowed. At the time you think this is great. Yes, I’ll throw on my solid dark blue one piece; hike the leg holes over my hips to get that sharp, hip-bone appeal. And we did. Maybe you did, too. You walked around town in your bathing suit. Years later you wonder what the hell were you thinking, as you recall all those eyes you collected staring at you in possible wonder, maybe with desire, but likely outlandish bereavement for ‘young people today’:
They drink acidophilus milk. Their skin
was stained paper and they sat inside it,
backs against the fat red booths,
staring at the comics, blank and fierce
You can see these men staring at you, and ignoring you as some continue reading the paper, drinking their probiotics, checking things out. Sometimes they look thirsty, or confused because they know they shouldn’t be looking at you. You think it’s a good time you’re giving them, and yourself to recognize the power and control you have over others. But they wonder how old you are
Two other girls worked
at the Donut Parade, twins. They had
long, black hair, innocent and smooth.
They had long, thin legs, brown from
the heavy sun that we caught
in the afternoons, feeling the heat
push at us, and at the lake,
as if the water, twins, and I were, all of us
We are replicas of each other, women regardless of body image, but we treat each other like strangers, look away from each others skinny legs, overgrown thighs, thick necks, slim arms. We do not help each other because we compete for everything. It doesn’t matter to me if this is what Read had in mind, and actually I don’t think it was, but like any good piece of writing it takes you somewhere whether you like it or not.
They wore their shorts short
and their apron strings hung down
like ribbons. At night, we went down
inside parks, into ditches where the boys
dragged kegs of beer. After the red plastic
cups, we crawled behind bushes with boys
who wanted to kiss us but in the morning
we were back in the kitchen,
our fingers thick with sugar.
All those collected glances, memories; the sweet taste of kiss after kiss and not once do you ever wonder what the hell you were doing there. Why you did what you did. The way you were girl and woman all at the same time, the way you grew into yourself in those short shorts, and dangling ribbons for cats to play with. How time changes our bodies from the days we were forever eighteen, changes our minds about decisions we made. And then you get married, feel the guilt, and spill it all from the sugar bowl, mixing fact with fiction because you sort of want your partner to know who, how many, and all the ridiculous, fattening ingredients that creates a soft, delicious donut. Have no regrets. Enjoy the memory of each bite.