I Was a Carvel Soft Serve Queen
by Kathleen A. Lawrence

My first big jump from babysitting money to minimum wage,
and I was thrilled. I was out of the house on a school night
and I was employed by my favorite spot for treats, a mystery
palace of Fudgie the Whale Cakes, Cookie Puss, sugar cones,
peach topping, and space-themed ice cream flying saucers.

It would be the first time I got a real printed paycheck;
I remember buying a pucker shirt the color of lemon-lime
to show off my sweet-sixteen curves and I had money
left over from my twenty-six dollars and thirty-seven cents.

Since childhood I had felt there was a real artist hidden deep
within me. Swirling soft vanilla and chocolate twists suspended
atop a crisp, tasty but somehow tasteless, wafer cone became
my medium. Somehow, as though I had studied the craft
for years my wrist would know how just to turn and curve
and pull the lever creating the perfect design topped
with a meringue tip like a wave caught mid-crash.

My manager saw the potential in me right away and soon
I was working most nights with a line out the door and spilling
into the parking lot, especially when the heat would start
melting their resistance to ice cream. Customers would
light like butterflies fluttering: baseball teams, lovers, friends,
families, teens with their parents’ station wagon, any colorful
social group busy and flapping waiting for their sweet nectar.

I loved the lines, the pressure, because it only made my magic
spin faster into sundaes crowned with rich dark fudge and
a cheerful maraschino cherry. Tall scoops of favorite flavors
with sprinkles and jimmies and chips and fruit and salty nuts
were the orders I built. The freezer contained my palette
of lovely pastels like strawberry, sherbet, and the cool vibrants
like black raspberry, mint chip, banana, and the decadent tones
of almond to coffee to eggnog to chocolate to ripple to decadence.

By the end of my long, sticky, marshmallowy summer
I was proud of the ice cream guns I had developed, the money
I had saved, and the impressionistic dairy dreams, whipped cream
wishes, and modern silky works of edible art I had created.

PHOTO: Carvel ice cream shop in Irondequoit, New York, late 1970s.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is about my first job outside of house chores and lots of babysitting of siblings, which started early for me. I really enjoyed reminiscing about the seventies when I spent my halcyon days wearing peasant blouses, hoop earrings, Maybelline, Levis, and eating cherry bonnet vanilla ice cream cones. Because my first three serious jobs involved twisting, scooping, and piling high dairy treats, I imagine that I have more confection- and cone-inspired poetry in me still.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kathleen A. Lawrence has had poems appear recently in Rattle online, Eye to the Telescope, Silver Blade Magazine, haikuniverse, New Verse News, Inigo Online Magazine, and The Epic Presidential Poem: The Trump Years (section 74), as well as in two anthologies memorializing Prince, Delirious and A Prince Tribute. A poem in Altered Reality Magazine was nominated for a 2017 Rhysling Award from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association. She was Poet of the Week at Poetry Super Highway in January 2017.