The Governor’s Thirty-Hour Cake

Peter Linebaugh

Mardi Gras 2016

Yes, I quite like cake:

Chocolate or vanilla, take your pick, you know what I mean,

Angel food cake, especially on my birthday.

I like cake, I really do.

It took thirty hours of kitchen labor to bake the special cake last week for the governor’s wife’s birthday.

They labored at a precious Ann Arbor bakery serving the shi-shi end of the market,

like Main Street developers, University administrators, or “job-creating” entrepreneurs.

On Fat Tuesday it seems OK to say,

I like cake too, I really, really do.

Pound cake, many-layered cake, carrot cake, cake with lots of frosting or none.

You remember what the Queen said when bread shortages

Caused the hungry people to clamor at her palace door?

“Let them eat cake,” for she understood her people.

Perhaps the Governor thought something similar.

“Let them drink coke and wash their face with cream,” he may have thought.

No sooner had the Queen spoken a couple centuries ago than the slaves of the sugar plantations burned down the mills,

starting a fire that provided warmth and offered light

Of such intensity that even now dimly and possibly it may not have gone out.

The English romantic, Coleridge, wrote then too, “water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink.”

The German romantic, Goethe, wrote as well about the health and love to be found at the water-well.

And didn’t Hésus himself meet the Samaritan woman at the well and invite her instead to drink from the ever-lasting spirit of righteousness?

Oh alas and dearee me, this is all from days of yore

Before Nestlé tried privately to bottle the Great Lakes,

Before Bechtel claimed the melting snows of the Andes,

Before Israel dammed up the springs of Palestine,

Before the dictateurs polluted the streams,

Or the Emergency Manager, the rivers,

Especially, the Flint River.

They are gathering on Main Street (let us call it Le Trough)

To lick up the swill, to slurp, or chow down on the thirty-hour cake

And wash it down with wine of course

While talking infrastructure, banking, and billions.

Marie-Antoinette met her fate at the guillotine.

Near its thundering blade sat a woman of Paris knitting:

purl one, drop two.

History teaches that to drink fresh water you first must light a fire and then demand cake.

We like cake, too.

Chocolate or vanilla

Angel food,

We really, really do.

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