Writing Minnesota

Katrina Vandenberg: "I'm not making this up."

Katrina Vandenberg's poem "Consuming Desire" uses a St. Paul wine bar as the setting for a loaded interaction: A young woman appears to be hitting on Vandenberg's husband, or, more specifically, on his cake.

It's a scene that could unfold anywhere in the world, a nice reminder that despite Mr. Keillor's assurance that Minnesotans are exceptional, we may, in the end, be subject to the same temptations as men and women everywhere.

Photo: Nikki Tundel

"Consuming Desire" appears in "Atlas," published by Milkweed Editions. Milkweed is also the publisher of Vandenberg's forthcoming book of poems, "The Alphabet Not Unlike the World (June 2012)."

The recipient of a Bush Artist Fellowship, a Loft-McKnight Award and a Fulbright fellowship, Vandenberg recently returned from the Amy Clampitt House in Lenox, Mass., where she served as poet in residence. She teaches creative writing at Hamline University, and is married to novelist John Reimringer. They live in Saint Paul.

Many thanks to Milkweed for permission to reprint "Consuming Desire" here.

Consuming Desire

I'm not making this up. At Cafe Latté's wine bar
one of the lovely coeds at the next table
touched John on the arm as if I wasn't there
and said, Excuse me, sir, but what
is that naughty little dessert?
And I knew from the way he glanced
at the frothy neckline of her blouse,
then immediately cast his eyes on his plate
before giving a fatherly answer,
he would have given up dessert three months
for the chance to feed this one to her.
I was stunned; John was hopeful;
but the girl was hitting on his cake.
Though she told her friend until they left
she did not want any. I wish she wanted
something—my husband, his cake, both at once.
I wish she left insisting
on the beauty of his hands, his curls,
the sublimeness of strawberries
and angel food. But she was precocious,
and I fear adulthood is the discipline
of being above desire, cultivated
after years of learning what you want
and where and how, after insisting
that you will one day have it. I don't
ever want to stop noticing a man like the one
at the bar in his loosened tie, reading 
the Star Tribune. I don't want to eat my cake
with a baby spoon to force small bites,
as women's magazines suggest. And you
don't want to either, do you? You want a big piece
of this world. You would love to have the whole thing.