I used to go mad when on Fridays our headteacher in primary school agreed to tell us the “Chocolate Cake” story. I didn’t know it was a poem when I was 5 years old, or when I was 10 years old, but I loved to hear it. Assemblies were something we didn’t normally look forward to (the whole of my year – about 30 ten year olds – once pegged it out of a side-door stupidly think we could escape the 5-minute exercise routine by ducking out behind all the younger kids). But when Mrs Penny read us the “Chocolate Cake” story, all of us used to hush one another and shove one another and sit very very still to listen. And then at the end we all used to cheer, and run back to our houses and beg for some.
I discovered a few months ago upon receiving a book called The Nation’s Favourite Poems that “Chocolate Cake” is a poem by Michael Rosen:
I love chocolate cake.
And when I was a boy
I loved it even more.
Sometimes we used to have it for tea
and Mum used to say,
‘If there’s any left over
you can have it to take to school
tomorrow to have at playtime.’
And the next day I would take it to school
wrapped up in tin foil
open it up at playtime
and sit in the corner of the playground
you know how the icing on top
is all shiny and it cracks as you
bite into it,
and there’s that other kind of icing in
and it sticks to your hands and you
can lick your fingers
and lick your lips
oh it’s lovely.
once we had this chocolate cake for tea
and later I went to bed
but while I was in bed
I found myself waking up
licking my lips
I woke up proper.
‘The chocolate cake.’
It was the first thing
1 thought of.
I could almost see it
so I thought,
what if I go downstairs
and have a little nibble, yeah?
It was all dark
everyone was in bed
so it must have been really late
but I got out of bed,
crept out of the door
there’s always a creaky floorboard, isn’t there?
Past Mum and Dad’s room,
careful not to tread on bits of broken toys
or bits of Lego
you know what it’s like treading on Lego
with your bare feet,
into the kitchen
open the cupboard
and there it is
So I take it out of the cupboard
put it on the table
and I see that
there’s a few crumbs lying about on the plate,
so I lick my finger and run my finger all over the crumbs
scooping them up
and put them into my mouth.
I look again
and on one side where it’s been cut,
it’s all crumbly.
So I take a knife
I think I’ll just tidy that up a bit,
cut off the crumbly bits
scoop them all up
and into the mouth
Look at the cake again.
That looks a bit funny now,
one side doesn’t match the other
I’ll just even it up a bit, eh?
Take the knife
This time the knife makes a little cracky noise
as it goes through that hard icing on top.
A whole slice this time,
into the mouth.
Oh the icing on top
and the icing in the middle
ohhhhhh oooo mmmmmm.
I can’t stop myself
1 just take any old slice at it
and I’ve got this great big chunk
and I’m cramming it in
what a greedy pig
but it’s so nice,
and there’s another
and another and I’m squealing and I’m smacking my lips
and I’m stuffing myself with it
before I know
I’ve eaten the lot.
The whole lot.
I look at the plate.
It’s all gone.
they’re bound to notice, aren’t they,
a whole chocolate cake doesn’t just disappear
What shall 1 do?
I know. I’ll wash the plate up,
and the knife
and put them away and maybe no one
will notice, eh?
So I do that
and creep creep creep
back to bed
licking my lips
with a lovely feeling in my belly.
In the morning I get up,
‘Have you got your dinner money?’
and I say,
‘And don’t forget to take some chocolate cake with you.’
I stopped breathing.
‘What’s the matter,’ she says,
‘you normally jump at chocolate cake?’
I’m still not breathing,
and she’s looking at me very closely now.
She’s looking at me just below my mouth.
‘What’s that?’ she says.
‘What’s what?’ I say.
‘What’s that there?’
‘There,’ she says, pointing at my chin.
‘I don’t know,’ I say.
‘It looks like chocolate,’ she says.
‘It’s not chocolate is it?’
‘I don’t know.’
She goes to the cupboard
looks in, up, top, middle, bottom,
turns back to me.
You haven’t eaten it, have you?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘You don’t know. You don’t know if you’ve eaten a whole
chocolate cake or not?
When? When did you eat it?’
So I told her,
and she said
well what could she say?
‘That’s the last time I give you any cake to take
Now go. Get out
not before you’ve washed your dirty sticky face.’
I went upstairs
looked in the mirror
and there it was,
just below my mouth,
a chocolate smudge.
Maybe she’ll forget about it by next week.
This afternoon I went to share in celebration with some first communicants. A happy bunch of youngsters. I remembered the poem about chocolate cake, and how I and the children were all very eager to have a feast of that in my youth, as I saw a group of youngsters eager and nervous and excited about sharing a tiny piece of bread and a little sip of wine, with the beautiful vision of God’s love that comes with it. In my childhood chocolate cake was a sort of communion for me. Sharing it and delighting in it. And then as I became confirmed last December and shared bread and wine with others, that became something much more important.
Now if I tried telling my 8 year old self that one day bread and wine would be more important to me than chocolate cake I’d have frowned and shook my head. But if I’d told myself that communion, in it’s many beautiful forms, in sharing, is about knowing that we are loved and helping others to know that they are loved, I’d have smiled and nodded. And I smile now.
Ahimsananda wrote in a blog post earlier this year about his thoughts on communion. About what it means to him to take it each week. About how, brought up in Roman Catholicism, communion in the Eucharist – thanksgiving – should be open to anyone who wishes to take it, as God’s love is open to all who wish to receive it (ah, but even then the love is there). He writes about the beauty and the strengthening power that comes with communion:
Love exists all around and through us, as a state of potential. Like electricity, Love requires a complete circuit. We get our “power” from our “communion” with the “Christ Consciousness”, or the Absolute. We “do” this by attending the Eucharist, meditation, self inquiry, or satsangs with souls who inspire us out of ourselves. We then become instruments in the circle of Love.