Stamps cost a quarter and on Sunday mornings my father and I made cinnamon rolls. I’d stand on a chair and measure ingredients into my mother’s big green bowl, stir with the wooden spoon, and ghost the Formica countertop with flour. We’d roll out the dough together, and he’d dab butter onto its surface, let me spread it like finger paint, before he spread globs of applesauce with the back of a spoon, then helped me wash the grease from my hands, and maybe he worried one day I’d be left for dead in a park. Maybe he hoped he could teach me to expect warm hands backed by gentleness. Maybe he hoped I could see the cleaning power of soap, place this knowledge against the images of slicked black bodies of otters and seals. He’d sprinkle the dough with a coat of cinnamon sugar, that parlance of sweet and spice complicated by hints of nutmeg, allspice, cloves, then I’d create a spine of raisins, and my fingers, which hadn’t yet learned dexterity or soft touch, would try to roll the dough. And students died in Tiananmen Square and the news was painted red and scared. My father sliced the dough into rolls, snugged them into a pan, and popped them in the oven, and a wall fell. While they baked, we sat at the kitchen table, watched the sun filter through the gouts of steam rising from the pond or pondered the smirr of autumn mornings when the whole world seemed grey [End Page 3] except for the starbursts of silver maples and sorghum, the fiery scarlet oaks. My father’s hair was still dark, mine still curled into ringlets, and the trees in our yard were saplings, supported by stakes and strings, roots not yet set. [End Page 4]
Liz N. Clift holds an MFA in creative writing from Iowa State University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the National Poetry Review, Rattle, Hobart, Booth, Passages North, and elsewhere. She lives in Colorado.