Rabbit Cake & Snail-Slow Freight Trains

From Lewis Nordan’s Music of the Swamp

My mother made me a birthday cake in the shape of a rabbit–she had a cake pan molded in that shape–and she decorated it with chocolate icing and stuck on carrot slices for the eyes. It was a difficult cake to make stand up straight, but with various props it would balance on its hind legs on the plate, so that when I came into the room it looked almost real standing there, its little front feet tucked up to its chest.

At the sight of the rabbit I started to cry. My mother was startled by my tears. She had been standing in the doorway between the kitchen and the dining room. The table was set with a white tablecloth and linen napkins, three settings for my birthday dinner.

I could not stop crying, looking at that rabbit cake. I knew that my mother loved me, I knew something of her grief–something in the desperate innocence of the rabbit, its little carrot eyes. I thought of the hopelessness of all love, and that is why I was crying, I think.

My mother came to me and held me to her and I felt her warmth and smelled her woman-smell. I wanted to dance with her at the Legion Hut. I wanted to give her a gift of earthworms (69).


When I was a child of eleven, there as a snail-slow freight train of a dozen cars or less that dragged its back legs through town each morning like a sorry dog and even stopped momentarily for God knows what reason at the Arrow Catcher depot and rested itself long to catch its breath and then, as if hopelessly, gathered its strength once again and set out on its asthmatic straining greasy little diesel motion towards the Mississippi River, some forty miles west of where I lived. (71)

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