Layer Cake by Mariko Brenner



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When I was very little had a birthday party.  Somewhere there still exists a faded Polaroid from that event.  The photo shows me standing gleefully over a seven layer cake.  The cake is nearly as large as my torso.  If you have never been to a Jewish  bakery, a seven layer cake is a large yellow cake, shaped into a plank and sliced into seven thin slices.  Each layer is covered with rich chocolate buttercream, and on top of the cake is one final layer of heavy dark chocolate ganache.  Visually the cake looks a little something like this: 

 

chocolate *

cake

butter cream

cake

butter cream

cake

butter cream

cake

butter cream

cake

butter cream

cake

butter cream

cake

 

The resulting cake is sickeningly sweet and wonderful; I still to this day have difficulty  an entire slice at one sitting.  Looking back I recall my mother could always finished her slice, working methodically from the bottom up with a fork.  My dad used a rounded butter knife to cut his slice into smaller and smaller sized cubes, which he then offer to anyone within earshot.  Nobody wanted his cake cubes.  I loved to eat my slice carefully, savoring one layer at a time.  

As we grow older our tastes in sweets change.  I awakened only recently to fact that I am a writer among other things.  I spent most of my twenties training as a studio potter, eventually getting my BFA in ceramics, only to discover that I had wedged all the joy right out of my work.  My pots felt constrained, lifeless.  They needed to breath and so did I.  I stared writing again, after college.  The year I was living in Maryland.

After art school I was pretty burnt out and lonely living in a city where I didn’t know anyone, accept my partner who was working all the time.  I started reading books about energy healing, of all things. I took writing and bookmaking classes at EMP Collective in Baltimore, and wrote poems about student debt and dreaming of shoplifting boots.  I read the poems aloud in front of a red velvet curtain, and fell in love with writing poems and sewing books.  I took pictures of the pots I was making and the food I was eating.  I dreamed of having enough money to go grocery shopping.  I saw two help wanted signs all year.  

Then in the summer I moved to CA and learned about energy healing.  I studies the twelve chakras in the body.  Then I made 12 journals.  One for every month of the year.  The pictures of those journals got me a work-study scholarship to Penland.  For two months making books, and cleaning The Pines dining hall.  The workshop was about making books and plant magic.  Using our hands, making paper, making our own tools, metamorphosing our words onto the printed page, binding our ideas into the metaphor of a book.  I wanted to make books that were as beautiful as words, and I want to write words that as beautiful as books.  Sometimes I struggled to make anything at all.  I met Kelly and Hannah.  

My work has always had lots to do with my love of people, and noticing little things.  Being an artist or a healer is about connecting the dots, seeing little things nobody else notices making the intangible tangible.  Being the whole layer cake and eating it too.  Happy 34th Birthday little on

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The day after my birthday by Mariko Brenner

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Today I receive a text message from my friend Kelly.  It was a reminder that we have promised to hold each other accountable for making some sort of regular consistent effort in posting to our blogs.  First of all very idea of having a blog is horrifying.  The word itself is an ugly one, both the sight of it in print, and the sound it makes rolling off of the tongue. Then there is the untrue but convincing voice which tells me I simply do not have time to write.  Maybe, next week or year, or lifetime, basically, some other time.  Next the defeatist voice which chimes in, saying even if you post this thing, it wont matter.  A blog with a single post has no value.  The blog only becomes a thing of value if you continue to add to it, and you will never do anything with it again.  What it the point of even trying?  I try to shush these and other voices, assuring them we have time, and that if I would only write a little bit regularly, there would be 52 posts by the end of the year.  When this number is met with scorn and derision, I suggest 12 blog posts (one per month) as a negation tactic.  Opposing council is favorably moved by this, and still notting happens.  This is where having a Kelly Moody is so helpful.  All of a sudden there is someone to notice if I write something and share it, for not.  Someone to chart the passage of time with me, as I fly off into inky depths of my mind, with its ever changing constellation of thoughts, moving through time relativity and space.