Recipe for Alienation

by | Issue #6, Issues, Poetry

Put a raisin cake in the oven, and it’s very small. Then you let it go, and the distance between the raisins is like the distance between the galaxies—it gets larger and larger with time.
—Neta Bahcall

  1. mix the dry ingredients. make a well in the middle. imagine diving in, hitting your head on the bottom to a blood spurt. remember that time you scraped your nose after diving into the warmup pool and everyone laughed while you tried not to cry. add the wet ingredients.
  2. pour the mixture into a pan. imagine the pan containing the batter like a swimming pool containing water. banish recollections of its leak. if you believe, you’re halfway there. recall visualisation techniques your coach/dad taught you.
  3. slide into the preheated oven. draw comparisons to sizzling in the pool on a summer Saturday morning, oil spill of sunscreen swirling on the 32° surface. draw comparisons to the expansion, the way the raisins drift further and further apart. recall the wait for stragglers in distance events.
  4. notice the dough stretch thin, air pockets finding their way inside. an alien lump moulded into existence by your own hands. draw comparisons to how we’re born looking like aliens, swimming before we’re ever taught how. watch the raisins disappear into the lumpy mass. remember sewing remnants of you, like lint, into the cloth of my poems.
  5. turn the heat off. remove the cake and take a look. search for the raisins. remember floating before swimming. realise now you’re tethered by one thing or another, even as you vanish from sight. you won’t find the raisins anymore.



Svetlana Sterlin writes prose, poetry, and screenplays in Brisbane, Australia. A swimming coach and former swimmer, she is the founding editor of swim meet lit mag. Her writing placed in the 2023 Richell Prize and Queensland Young Writers Award and appears in Westerly, Island, the Australian Poetry Anthology, and elsewhere. More from Svet here: