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My Father's Fruitcake
Ruth Moose


Every year
the day after Thanksgiving
my father came home
with a large box held out like a cachet of jewels.
Jane Parker, Ann Page,
I could never remember the name
raised in gold letters on red foil.
Only that it came from the A & P
where we never shopped because
they didn’t carry credit.
The size of this fruitcake,
ten pounds, fifteen?
depended on how well the winter
went; no doctor’s visits,
the water heater stayed fixed,
and a load of dry wood
stacked in the shed
for the stove.

Every night
as he sat at the table,
my father had the cake
brought before him.
He peeled back the cheesecloth
like a surgeon, measured a juice
glass of apple or blackberry brandy
and carefully basted the cake.
Such luxury, such wealth in that smell,
the light reflected in fruits
and nuts; my father’s face bright,
his eyes eager as he tasted
in his mind . . . that cake.
The cake was a crown,
rubies and emeralds, citrines,
and pearls in that kitchen
where even the green Formica table
and plastic upholstered chairs
were bought on time.

We watched.
We drank the rich smell,
knew we’d someday taste
this thing so rare. So expensive.
So reserved for adults
when we became brave
and wise, full of what it took
to face the world and buy
ourselves a prize.

From Tea and Other Assorted Poems ((Main Street Rag, 2010).
Used with the author’s permission.

Ruth Moose has been on the Creative Writing faculty at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill since l996. Author of two collections of short stories and six collections of poetry, her work has appeared in many U.S. publications and in Holland, South Africa, England and Denmark. Ruth was awarded a MacDowell Fellowship and in 2009, received the prestigious Chapman Fellowship for Teaching. She lives in Pittsboro, NC, and has a new short story collection, Neighbors and Other Strangers, forthcoming from Main Street Rag Press.


Post New Comment:
A heart rending poem. I love it. Have your cake and eat it too. Yes, it brought my daddy back home to me, though I donot remember him being into fruitcake. He used to clean out the turkey guts every thanksgiving. Not the same, but the same respect and love. Thanks. It is a lovely poem.
Posted 11/26/2011 10:57 PM
HI Ruth, I have heard your name often among my NC friends. Great detail in this poem, and a great story of the times. Love the child's viewpoint too. Thanks for the smile, Karen
Posted 11/26/2011 01:44 PM
Ruth, I can smell, see, taste this cake of seasonal celebration. What a cake! What a father! What a poem! Thanks, Maren
Posted 11/26/2011 11:38 AM
This poem really brought my father to mind. He loved mince-meat pie and made the best whiskey-drenched hard-sauce to go with it. There was similar pomp with the serving of each slice. Thanks for the memory, Ruth.
Posted 11/26/2011 09:17 AM

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