Lauren Russell

“______ than Cake” began in Dawn Lundy Martin’s Spring 2013 poetry workshop at the University of Pittsburgh. Dawn gave us a prompt to research some aspect of the body’s functioning and to use this research as a missing text. The assignment was to write around that missing text. Dawn wrote, “This will be the text that you will omit from your poems; this will be the text that refuses your direct attention. What happens instead? What is the text that occurs around the text? What happens in the place of the research text/information? How is the missing text hinted at/indicated?” I started my research with celibacy, but this soon branched into other areas including singleness and also asexuality.

“______ than Cake” has several influences, but the most prominent is the 2011 documentary (A)Sexual directed by Angela Tucker. About 25 minutes in, an asexual-identified individual named Cole explains, “The idea of asexuals and cake came about because somebody posed the question ‘What’s better than sex?’ and everybody seems to universally agree that cake is just fantastic. Jokingly, cake would be the asexual sex.” In revision, I also used assorted found material, including flyers and ads. When shopping for language to play with, I consulted Jude Schell’s lesbian sex guide Her Sweet Spot (yes, it’s actually called that!) and the desserts chapter of Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.



______ than Cake



Do you ever …

Don’t you want …

Do you experience difficulty in …

Were you traumatized by …

Are you sure this is not the result of …

Why don’t you have a …

Are you on the spectrum of …

Is this a choice or …

How can you live without …


little duchess bakeshop
petite praline sweet spot
red velvet forest frost
vanilla pudding muffin stud
gilded chocolate cherry bundt

This year’s fundraiser cake contest will celebrate the birth of our 5000th baby! For the first time in the event’s history, MOVING PARTS will be a component of decorated cakes.

        Aunt: How are you going to get a man
        if you don’t know how to cook?

        Niece: Oh, you’re supposed to cook them?

The last time was two years before, when apartment-hunting in a city she would inhabit eventually. One day, after it had rained (which it does quite often, with sudden ferocity, in this new city), she left her umbrella to dry in S’s hall. On the bus home, she got a text: “You left your red umbrella.” Months later, after she had moved and long after it had ended, S gave her a new umbrella—bigger, stronger, and redder than the one she’d left. (By way of explanation): “I broke the other one,” S said.

kitty tickler dance
catnip mouse and lunging cat
chocolate crumbs and fresh-licked pan
white wine woozy on Friday night
and damn that track!—singing
consonantal bounce

Studies fail to differentiate between choice and circumstance, though nearly a third of non-cohabitating women between the ages of eighteen and sixty

butter browning whipped puff
beaten, creamed, and almost crushed
sugar petal pinched a blush
honey, soften up your dates
toothpicks testing half-baked cakes

Chrissy and Daphne are trying out a new thigh harness. That is the entire premise. Has Chrissy’s thigh fallen asleep under the sustained vigor of Daphne’s grind? Daphne’s mouth falls open, an exaggerated O.

cracked and yolked
that slippery trope
crusty crumble
filling’s poked

The umbrella that once withstood torrents is older now and full of angles—its barbs could take an eye out if you weren’t looking up.

        Seriously Sexy

We are looking for 16 heterosexual couples who:
● Have been monogamous longer than six months
● Are willing to be sexually active as part of this study
● Are available for up to 14 weeks

sated, baited, or sublimated
wedge or linchpin, obfuscated

one toothbrush
one frying pan
one packed lunch
one radio blaring Fresh Air
one magazine on one nightstand
one stack of Christmas cards
one Frida Kahlo wall
one calendar riddled with asterisks
one cat bounding from the window ledge

alliance      allegiance       a law       a license      a limit      elicit      alone      defiance

Out (on a date?)—pumpkin soup! crème brûlée!—she looks across a table at someone’s face


gooey, fruity, and bourbon boozy
hot, sauced, and dressed up juicy

The last time she left her umbrella (by way of explanation) after it had ended (which it does quite often). She left it (by way of explanation) after it had rained, with sudden ferocity, stronger than before, in this new city.


                                                                                    For a caramelized flavor,
                                                                                    substitute brown sugar.
                                                                                    Olive oil is more versatile
                                                                                    than butter—

                                                                                                     Intimate or Intimation: which
                                                                                                     cannot be replicated


It all comes down to chemistry
(calculation, not improvisation)



       what acceptance desires
   _______________________ =
          what desire accepts



one umbrella, a solitary red



Lauren Russell
’s first full-length book, What’s Hanging on the Hush, will be out from Ahsahta Press in 2017.
She is the author of the chapbook Dream-Clung, Gone (Brooklyn Arts Press), and her poems have appeared
or are forthcoming in Betterboundary 2jubilatPingPong, and Tarpaulin Sky, among others. Her reviews
may be found in Aster(ix), The VoltaJacket2, and elsewhere. She has received fellowships from Cave Canem
and the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, and she will be the 2016 VIDA Fellow to the Home School Miami.