The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Allie Marini’s Before Fire: Divorce Poems

allie and george

Streuselküchen, Prasselküchen, Butterküchen

Some say, lying is done with words & silence,
but it is also done with küchen, streusel
something scattered or sprinkled:
flour, cinnamon, butter, sugar, crème, nut meats, cherries, fat—
all the makings of happy marriages or happier funerals.

Simple cakes, these—though the baker knows better.
Yeast & milk, the freud-und-leid, mixed together to form dough,
which though silky to the touch, takes heft & might to make smooth.
In the kitchen, the baker kneads by hand, flipping & punching
until every knot turns soft & velvet.
Leave it still, heart-warmed, until it doubles.

Zuckerküchen assumes nothing.
Flat cakes for oblong unions, lopsided loves & slivered luck.
Most of the time, it’s more crumb than cake;
though sometimes—a puff pastry or short crust foundation,
a dough formed from shortening, more pie than küchen
it’s up to the baker to decide: Sweet is sweet.

Years ago, a Silesian baker tied her apron strings,
pulling rolled pastries & butter-sugar tartlets,
veined & studded with pockets of cinnamon,
out of the warmth of her oven—to get to a husband’s heart,
travel a path from his tongue, & when he wrongs you,
invent Käseküchen; soft cheese will mask the salt.
Emboss it with cherries. Show him how sweet it is to sit at your table.

When he strays & comes back to you, celebrate the ripe fruit of reconciliation,
a bit sharp, sour-sweet as the reddest of strawberries in your famous Erdbeerküchen.
Lace it with an edge of whipped cream—
forget the way the crust crumbles under the tines of your dessert fork.

Later, use a flat pan for a simple confection:
Baumküchen, whose layers are the rings of a tree,
gone from acorn to oak in the oven—
mature & ripe, its filling pinwheels vanilla, nutmeg-glazed apple slices,
the pinch of occasional jealousies & the remaining scars of old fights,
strident as an unexpected spike of ginger or cinnamon—
softened by a flutter of cardamom &
a skillful piping of sweet white icing on the top.

What’s left, in the kitchen,
after the husbands have been wedded, forgiven & buried,
after the kids have moved out &
the guests have come & gone:
just crumbs, & the memory of desserts not always sweet.
Beerdigungsküchen; the baker grieves.


This selection comes from Allie Marini Batts’ collection Before Fire: Divorce Poems, available now from ELJ Publications!  Purchase your copy here!

Allie Marini holds degrees from Antioch University of Los Angeles & New College of Florida, meaning she can explain deconstructionism, but cannot perform simple math. Her work has been a finalist for Best of the Net & nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She is managing editor for the NonBinary Review, Unbound Octavo, & Zoetic Press, and co-edits for Lucky Bastard Press with her man, performance poet B Deep. She has previously served on the masthead for Lunch Ticket, Spry Literary Journal, The Weekenders Magazine, Mojave River Review & Press, & The Bookshelf Bombshells. Allie is the author of  Unmade & Other Poems (Beautysleep Press), You Might Curse Before You Bless (ELJ Publications) wingless, scorched & beautiful (Imaginary Friend Press), Before Fire (ELJ Publications), This Is How We End (Bitterzoet), Pictures From The Center Of The Universe (Paper Nautilus, winner of the Vella Prize), Cliffdiving (Nomadic Press), And When She Tasted of Knowledge (Nomadic Press), Southern Cryptozoology: A Field Guide To Beasts Of The Southern Wild (Hyacinth Girl Press), Here Comes Hell {dancing girl press}, & Heart Radicals, a collaborative collection with Les Kay, Janeen Pergrin Rastall & Sandra Marchetti (ELJ Publications).  Allie rarely sleeps, and her mother has hypothesized that she is actually a robot fueled by Diet Coke & Sri Racha. She met George R.R. Martin & did not die. Proof of immortality? Not sure, but it does make a compelling argument…Find her on the web: or @kiddeternity.

Erin Elizabeth Smith is the Creative Director at the Sundress Academy for the Arts and the author of two full-length collections, The Naming of Strays (Gold Wake, 2011) and The Fear of Being Found, which will be re-released from Zoetic Press later this year. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Mid-American, 32 Poems, Zone 3, Gargoyle, Tusculum Review, and Crab Orchard Review. She holds a PhD in Creative Writing and teaches a bit of everything in the English Department at the University of Tennessee. She serves as the managing editor of Sundress Publications and The Wardrobe.


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