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BOOKS & THE CULTURE The Applecake for Hermann Michaeli On days like this, on Tuesdayswhen sad buffalo moo blues inside me, and what sun there is fizzles above my crooked hat like a dud fuse, on Wednesdays when a man wears his solitude like an iron yoke, when a woman strings her necklace with the same rage that split the moon, when itchy children lean against windows waiting while rain whips the sidewalks. When all over the everywhere trouble chain-smokes and spits, and people wonder why they don’t have no money, why the priests are tipsy with sin, why the police have turned against them, on Thursdays when the pigeons start barking and the rats have already nibbled God down to a hairy nose, when every president is Reagan, when it all seems lost and wrong and too far for any luck to reach, I like to consider your applecake smiling on the kitchen counter, dressed only in its sweetness, its round face a jubilant island of apple and sugar no mere strudel or sloppy cobbler it is a baked cathedral of promises kept, your applecake opening up like a three-day weekend, a Good Friday for one’s mouth, a jailbreak from the hard, inedible, unthinkable city. How do you do it, my friend? What is the recipe? More than teaspoons and cups, food words and measures, the magic must hide in your hands like invisible fruit each finger become secretly a buttery bough of apples blazing slowly, each year of your life changed to flavor, each memoryeven the ones that bruise the soula nameless spice, a lamp intended to go on, to glow in the hope-laden tongue of the world. The applecake, like a circular avenue around and around which the friendliest lovers movein no hurry to be anyplace but your arms forever, for an afternoonthe applecake like a sacred lens through which a person might glimpse the real earth, a blue ruby pinned to a golden scarf of near, near stars, the delicious earth done with barracuda greed and bone-headed hate, the applecake itself, a new planet where everything plays everything and all is always wellbig towns full of pals, mambo music, polkas, hiphop, the very air drunk with cookingwhere someone lonely, someone sincerely complicated, can put his arms around a warm slice, or wrestle a big piece to the floor, and without saying anything, with only a parting of his lips, make a perfect night of it. Loudmouth Flakes Snatch! Pockle! Crap! He listens to the sodden wry whimsey, the breakfast that talks back, but his heart is not in the dialogue. He longs for silent eggs, whispering biscuits, the murmuring blood of soft-spoken oranges, wishes for the coy reticence of Aunt Jemima, whose inscrutable smile speaks of a simpler, purer time, when conversation could safely be joined with Spanish omelets, hominy grits and the low groan of red-eye gravy gently ladled, disinclined to morning disputations. G.W. FRAZIER TIM SEIBLES Tim Seibles came to Dallas in 1973 to attend SMU, thinking he would play pro football one day, but “accidentally” fell into a writing workshop where he discovered his love for po etry. He remained in Dallas fourteen years after his graduation, working as a teacher at the high school level. His first book, Body Moves, was published by Corona Press in San Antonio. Later books are Hurdy-Gurdy Kerosene University in Norfolk, Virginia, he writes, “Texas will always resonate in my soul as the place that allowed me the first stutterings of a voice and offered me encouragement….” G.W. Frazier is a native Texan who first studied writing under Walter McDonald at Texas Tech and now lives in Corpus Christi where he teaches at Del Mar College. His previous “closest brush with publication” happened when he submitted a volume of poetry, No Other, to a bookbinder to produce a single copy for sale at a church art auction. It sold “for the amazing sum of fifty dollars.” The Texas Observer is honored to be cited as “his favorite periodical.” Winter seems a good time for food poems as we steam and bake our way through the chill. Both these poems operate successfully on other delicious levels as well. Naomi Shihab Nye 24 THE TEXAS OBSERVER FEBRUARY 14, 1997