chocolate is a verb

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Tag Archives: candles

found poem: the way

found poem: discovered

found poem: night

found poem: the ramparts


Olvera StreetDowntown Los Angeles was perhaps 15 miles from our house, but now and then, something would draw us in that direction — a necessary visit to the central library, for example — and we would make the long and scenic (pre-freeway) drive down Wilshire or Sunset Boulevard.

These trips might include a detour to Olvera Street, L.A.’s “oldest street,” a cobbled alley lined with shops and stalls between buildings dating from the 1800s. Every child growing up in L.A. learned about Olvera Street, but our rare family visits made the place seem terribly exotic.

What I recall is the sensory experience: the sound of strolling mariachis, the intensely sweet fragrance of the candlemaker’s shop and the sparkling wonder of spun glass. To watch the glass worker’s molten thread turn a bit of empty air into a rearing horse or a magnificent sailing ship was a kind of magic. Down a few steps, the candle shop was not just a collection of glossy tapers, but marvelous suspended racks fringed with wicks that dipped and hovered over troughs of wax. A beautiful dark-haired woman in a lacy black shawl and a full-skirted dress that was all red ruffles danced in front of the musicians, her heels echoing on the cobblestones.

I was discouraged from wanting things, from wanting generally, and learned not to ask, and while it seemed such trinkets might turn a drab girl into a swan, the memory of Olvera Street has surely outlasted the candles and purses and perfect glass ballerina that seemed so desirable — so necessary — at the time.
. . . . .
Olvera Street postcard

the candles…


Gloria rinsed her fingertips and dabbed them on her apron to dry. Birthday cake, she focused. Candles. Well, no, she didn’t have birthday candles. Only a partially-used box of Hanukkah candles, which might do, and a bag of white utility candles, for emergencies, which might not. She peered into the makeshift double boiler, where blocks of chocolate were melting in a slow swirl of butter. Actually, maybe she did have birthday candles, she thought, remembering and pulling down a small box marked Candles from the cupboard above the refrigerator. There was her mother’s copper candle snuffer, the long-handled chrome snuffer she had bought when she had given up looking for her mother’s, a cellophane bag of tapers in various colors, and a small box with 12 remaining birthday candles. She could work with 12, she thought, imagining the conflagration that might be her own birthday cake, her face heating with embarrassment at the knowledge she’d never be able to blow them out, with the lifelong fear of spitting on everyone, of blowing her bad breath across the room. Twelve would be fine for Marlie.

She measured out the flour, baking powder, salt, and glanced at the four sunny, glistening eggs in the blue bowl. She could hear her mother calling Taffy! and the cocker spaniel clicking across the kitchen floor to lick up an egg. It was a bit of a joke with them and once or twice her mother had even staged an accidental egg drop just to watch Taffy’s little stub of tail twitch with happiness as she lapped up the mess. For years, long after Taffy’s mysterious disappearance from the front stoop, they would say Where’s Taffy? any time a bit of food fell on the floor…

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