Written in Buttercream

Janice Northerns

It’s only “Cake Decorating for Fun and Profit”
at the community college, but my father says no
to my mother’s request, as if too much immersion
in buttercream and confectioner’s sugar might swirl
her right over into the Seven Deadlies. Why not learn
something, he offers. A fat packet arrives by mail: 

Understanding the Mysteries
of Revelation: A Study Course Complete

in Twelve Weeks by Brother D. V. Lillard. 
Mama reads to us at night about the endtimes
and the Mark of the Beast, about the terrible lot
of those whose names are not written

in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Daddy goes to bed satisfied, 
as if religion were the only punctuation needed
in Mama’s week of canning black-eyed peas
and starching Levis. While Daddy plows his fields, 
though, Mama slips out her contraband
copy of Wilton’s Decorating Magic, meditating on the grace

of leaf borders and sugar roses. I sit atop the red Formica counter, 
swinging my legs while mama hums
When the Roll is Called Up Yonder and pipes whitecaps
onto a blue-frosted sea of birthday cake. Gumdrop boats
hold candles as cargo – seven of them – 
like the seven golden candlesticks

in the book of Revelation. Seven
is God’s perfect number, Mama says
as she writes my name among the waves, 
anchored in icing and snowy white as my heart
after Sunday night altar call. 



Janice Northerns grew up on a rural West Texas farm with a huge dollop of fundamentalist Pentecostalism, leaving her feeling like an outsider, even a freak, at times. Through poetry, she enjoys exploring this outsider status — she an affinity for the misfits and the marginalized. She holds a master’s degree in English with a specialization in creative writing from Texas Tech University. Her poems have appeared in Culebra!, Conference of College Teachers of English Studies, Concho River Review, RiverSedge, Southwestern American Literature, The Cape Rock, College English, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Poem, Coal City Review, and elsewhere. Janice currently lives in Liberal, Kansas, where she teaches creative writing, literature, and composition at Seward County Community College. 

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