Elegy for the Year’s Paschal Lamb Cake, 1961

by Terry Savoie

Easter breakfast after the first Mass
& there’s a sweet Something waiting
on each table lining the refectory,
a Paschal Lamb cake topped with a cloud
of frosting & a gorgeously thick layer of coconut
mimicking the lamb’s fleece with two red sugar beads
for eyes, a black liquorish bead for the button nose. Above,
a dusting of heaven-sent confectioner’s sugar like snow. 
Starved for forty days without anything of sugar,
 
the younger boys’ eyes widened in anticipation,
but not one dares appear eager before praying grace.
The first to dig in are upper-level students at each table
as they decapitate the cakey lambs, one by one, each
boy devouring his claim on a sizable chunk of a sugary
head while laughing all the while as they wolf it
down, leaving to the boldest second-year boys
the freedom to go after huge hunks of haunches,
flanks, legs & backs, sparing only the butt ends

for the freshmen at each table who don’t dare lift a fork
without permission first regardless of how the dogs growl
in their stomachs’ empty guts for just one poor forkful
before the lambs were totally sacrificed & desecrated.
So far, the Prefect intones, rings his bell for prayer,
then dismisses all to the dormitory to make ready
for the second Mass of the day. Now, it’s clear that
by noontime, only stale bits of cake crumbs will remain,
crumbs no one will fight for or would ever want to eat.  

Terry Savoie has had more than four hundred poems published both here and abroad in the past forty years in such venues as Poetry (Chicago), Ploughshares, America, Commonweal, American Poetry Review, American Journal of Poetry, Black Warrior Review, North American Review, Prairie Schooner and The Iowa Review.

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