Baking Lemon Cake With Anne by Ann Y.K. Choi


I would have lied but the phone rang
as I was carefully measuring
baking powder, soda, salt.

I’m reading Anne Sexton,
I tell my mother. I have to, for a course.
The name rolls around like lemon seeds.

She repeats “Anne” carefully,
like she could crack a tooth on it.
You need to let it go, I want to say.

It happened forty years ago.
A thousand lemon cakes ago.
The oven timer chimes on cue.

Anne is such a plain name, she says,
Nothing good ever happens to any Annes.
I pour half a cup of sugar into lemon juice,

Watch it dissolve into Raggedy Ann,
Orphan Annie, and all the other doomed Ann(e)s –
the latest being Anne and her green gables.

(I used to be safe with her
until my mother went online and read
that L.M. Montgomery had killed herself.)

I divide the batter into two pans,
level them over with a knife.
Push them into the oven.

(I want to lick the wooden spoon
but my tongue is in a jar
sitting next to a row of maraschino cherries.)