“Cupcakes” by Mark Hendrickson

Mark Hendrickson


On the way to my grandma’s funeral I pick up cupcakes.
I’m the one in charge of the cupcakes
and if I don’t pick them up there will be no dessert
and that won’t be enough. The cupcake store is on Alton,
my grandpa’s name, and I wear a tie he gave me.
I must look like I’m going to a funeral because the baker says
sorry as she hands me the cupcakes. Or she might be apologizing
for something wrong with the cupcakes I haven’t yet noticed, but am bound to
once I set them out on the white tables in the church fellowship hall.
More likely I didn’t put my arms out quite right as she handed them to me,
something most people know inherently how to do,
causing her to have to set the four plastic trays of cupcakes
awkwardly down on my suit sleeves, where I held them out from my chest
so no frosting would touch my tie. Because she is polite
or because she has been trained to be,
she took the fault on herself by saying sorry,
though it isn’t my fault either to need
so many cupcakes as to make them nearly uncarryable dressed this way.
Fault is something there sometimes isn’t any of.

from Rattle #40, Summer 2013


Mark Hendrickson: “I just finished my first year teaching high school math so I haven’t had a lot of time to read or write, which makes me anxious that I’m falling behind. Still, I say favorite poems to myself when I walk my dog. I like being reminded what keeps some poems whole in my brain despite neglect, and the dog doesn’t seem to mind that the other dogs see her with a guy who’s talking to himself.”

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