Cake Night

December 13, 2012 § Leave a comment


We won’t hear about Mouchette’s test results until Saturday or Monday. Charles says he can’t think of anything else, but I’ve managed to make myself believe it will be all right. She’s occasionally moving her jaw back and forth as if to say, “There’s something wrong here, Mom, have you seen my teeth?” I hate looking in her mouth and seeing them missing, though she still has her front fangs.

We went to a poetry reading tonight at Cake on the Lower East Side. I used to go there often in the old days, when it was just beginning to become gentrified, my friends scoring cheap apartments among the Italian cafes and cloth merchants. I think there were maybe two places to eat. Now it’s a jumping and very young neighborhood,the sort of streets where you think they’ll card you in the bars, kick you out if you’re over 35. When I look into those joints—the talk, the drinks, the boys, the jive—I don’t feel nostalgia for youth but only for my youthful body, which has gone to the same distant happy place as Mouchette’s teeth. (Where you will also find the old Italian men who used to sit on their stoops or in chairs on the street—thick, short, round-shouldered bodies, drooping eyelids—looking at us with a gaze I’m beginning to grow into.)

The reading room at Cake, a café and bar, was in the basement of a narrow storefront and it was dark, dank and musty, with red glitter tinsel hanging at the back of the designated stage. Other than bar stools, there were only tiny, hard, plastic cubes masquerading as chairs, and Thai rock music on the sound system. Charles said it was exactly the sort of place he finds himself in his dreams when runs and runs but can’t find the exit. I thought it was more like one of those fictional bars where a handful of characters hunker down against the monsters that are eating the townspeople, much of the action happening as a result of a slow, inevitable slide into drunkenness. In other words, I liked it just fine.

There was a two-drink minimum and since one glass of the house wine (poured to the very brim of a jelly glass) was more than enough for me, Charles had three gin and tonics. He’s making dinner now. It’s okay if it takes a while.

We went because Alissa Heyman was reading. She’s the curator of the Cornelia Street Perfect Sense poetry series where I’ve read twice. I like her (she’s kind, considerate and wears great lipstick) and I liked her poems a lot: desire, fairytales, three poems about a girl who marries a skull. The last three lines of the first skull poem:

One day I will be a skull too,
and my husband won’t mind a bit.
He’ll say, “Now you’ve grown into a real beauty.”

To read more, click here

A few other poets read, including Cathy Park Hong. Hong, lithe and charming, is the author of three books: Translating Mo’um, Dance Dance Revolution and Engine Empire. says, “A review of her work in Rain Taxi Review of Books described Hong’s…work that ‘manages to create a space for the irreducibility of meaning.’”

How much space does the irreducibility of meaning take up? Would you know if it was in hiding your closet or sitting beside you in a taxi? Sucking out the contents of your wallet?

The poems are good anyway.

Remember to check out my Etsy site and BUY STUFF. Do it for Mouchette and, if you have no female friends or relations, give a pair of earrings to your favorite lady veterinary worker. I do.

Ontology of Chang and Eng, the Original Siamese Twins

Chang spoke / Eng paused.

Chang threw a beach ball / Eng caught it.

Chang told a white lie / Eng got caught for the lie.

Chang forgot his first language / Eng picked up English.

In letters, Chang referred to themselves as “I” / Eng as “we.”

While proselytizing, the preacher asked Chang, “Do you know where you
go after you die?” Chang said, “Yes, yes, up dere.” / Thinking they didn’t
understand, he asked, “Do you know where I go after I die?” Eng said,
“Yes, yes, down dere.”
Chang married Adelaine / Eng married her sister Sally.

Chang made love to his wife / Eng daydreamed about money,
his Siam childhood and roast beef. He tried not to get aroused.

Chang checked his watch, scratched his head and fidgeted/
Eng made love to his wife.

Chang became drunk, knocked Eng out with a whiskey bottle
and went carousing with his boys / Eng was unconscious.

Chang proved Einstein’s time dilation while drunkenly running
from one bar to the next / Eng was unconscious.

Chang apologized / Eng grudgingly accepted.

Chang paused / Eng spoke / Chang interrupted.

“I am my own man!” / Eng echoed, “We are men yes.”


Both broke their bondage with their pitchman, Mr. Coffin.

Both owned land in North Carolina and forty slaves.

Both were nostalgic for Siam: childhood of preserving
duck eggs, watching tiger and elephant fights with the King,
Mother Nok who loved them equally.

The physicians were surprised to find both were “personable.”

Both did not appreciate the outhouse joke.
“Are all Orientals joined?” “Allow me to stick this very sharp pin
in Eng’s neck to see if both of you feel the pain.” “Is it true that
you turn babies into cabbages?” “We are nice, civilized people.
We offer you bananas.”

Both were sick of fascination.

Both woke up, played checkers, sired children, owned whips
for their slaves, shot game, ate pie. Both wore French black silk, smoked
cigars, flirted. Both believed in the tenets of individualism.
Both listed these activities to the jury and cried, “See, we are American!”

Both were released with a $500 fine for assaulting another head hunter.

Both were very self-aware.

Both insisted on an iron casket so that grave robbers would not
dig up their bodies and sell them to the highest bidder.

Both did not converse with one another except towards the end:

“My lips are turning blue, Eng” / Eng did not answer.

“They want our bodies, Eng.” / Eng did not answer.

“Eng, Eng! My lips are turning blue.” / Eng turned to his body and did not answer.

–Cathy Park Hong


Tagged: , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

What’s this?

You are currently reading Cake Night at Mostly in the Afternoon.


%d bloggers like this: