Today’s tea, drunk this afternoon, was a black tea that purported to taste of Red Velvet Cake. Accordingly, it was suitably rich, more dessert than breakfast tea. This was more or less as we expected; we still remember, after all, the days when our academic grandmother aspired to bake red velvet cake. The trick, as per her recipe book, was to lean in hard to the richness of the cake. Never to use margarine when it called for butter, or milk instead of cream. It worked for her. The tea was like that too; creamy and full-bodied, unapologetic in its luxuriance.
The same academic grandmother was responsible for the founding of what was then the Poetry and Cake Society. We met, a moveable feast, at a different house each week. Read aloud, drank tea and baked for one another. Nothing so indulgent as red velvet cake, to our memory, though courgette cake was quite thing in the society’s last year or so.
We were thinking of this over tea, it being about the time when Poetry and Cake would hold its Christmas party. We think we’ve told you a bit about some of the games. Guess the Rhyme, for instance, was the favourite. There was another, unnamed, where we had to justify a dislike of one famous poet and a taste for an overlooked one. The less expected the answer, the higher your score. We did terribly. Such are the hazards of narrowly focusing on the Romantics. But we did once confess to a certain amount of disinterest in Cummings. The lack of capitals, you know, irritate us. Far too obvious an answer.
But then, in rewatching The Hour the other evening, we realised that, as with every other rule, this one had an exception. So here, with no more regard for capitalisation than red velvet cake has for calories, is the one bit of Cummings to really win us over.
Somewhere I have never travelled gladly beyond
somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near
your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully, mysteriously)her first rose
or if your wish be to close me ,i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;
nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the colour of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing
(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands