16 pages 32 minutes read

Natalie Diaz

No More Cake Here

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 2012

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Summary and Study Guide


“No More Cake Here” by Natalie Diaz was published in 2012 in Diaz’s first book, When My Brother Was an Aztec (Copper Canyon Press). The poem consists of eight stanzas and 64 lines, and is written in unrhymed free verse from a first-person point of view. The premise of the poem is a party the speaker throws for their brother upon hearing of his death. The dark occasion is juxtaposed by the poem’s insistently festive tone, complete with balloons, confetti, entertainment, and cake: “A few stray dogs” (Line 30) and “[t]wo mutants” (Line 45) show up and are denied cake. The poem grows more and more dreamlike and surreal as God inhabits a piñata and the speaker clangs kitchen utensils together as though it were a “New Year’s celebration” (Line 56). In the final stanza, the speaker’s brother arrives, not dead. The speaker wonders at their impulse to imagine a party to celebrate the death of a living brother.

Poet Biography

Natalie Diaz is a poet, essayist, and linguist. She was born in Needles, California, and grew up on the Fort Mojave Indian Reservation, known colloquially as the Indian Village. She is an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Tribe.

Diaz played professional basketball in Europe and Asia after earning a BA from Old Dominion University, where she played college basketball and studied on a full scholarship. She later returned to Old Dominion to complete an MFA program. Her first full-length poetry collection, When My Brother Was an Aztec, was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2012. Her book Postcolonial Love Poem, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, came out in 2020. Additional honors include the Narrative Poetry Prize, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a Bread Loaf Fellowship, a US Artists Ford Fellowship, and the Nimrod/Hardman Pablo Neruda Prize. She was a 2018 MacArthur Foundation Fellow.

One of nine children born to a native mother and a Spanish Catholic father, Diaz has said, “[…] there are multitudes of truth in a single story […] We held to many truths all at once” (Diaz, Natalie; Matejka, Adrian. New American Poets: Natalie Diaz.” Poetry Society of America). In several of the poems from When My Brother Was an Aztec, including “No More Cake Here,” the speaker considers the complexities of loving and living with a sibling addicted to meth. In the process, the poems reach for and embrace histories and possibilities both within and beyond the familial.

Diaz teaches at Arizona State University in the creative writing MFA Program, and works to revive and restore native language through a Mojave language revitalization program.

Poem Text

Diaz, Natalie. “No More Cake Here.” 2012. Poetry Foundation.


Natalie Diaz’s poem, “No More Cake Here,” begins as a story: “When my brother died” (Line 1). The ensuing narrative focuses on a party the speaker hastily organizes to celebrate a party for their supposedly dead brother. The guest list is sizable, with “one hundred invitations / […] scribbled while on the phone with the mortuary” (Lines 3-4). The speaker has their mother and father blow up red balloons. The balloons signify the brother’s troubles, such as his time in the emergency room and prison, and how that impacted the family. Siblings make “confetti” (Line 20) of the brother’s old, shabby clothes. The entertainment includes clowns who play “toy bugles,” (Line 24), a “magician” (Line 33), and a “mariachi band playing in the bathroom” (Line 32). The speaker bakes their “brother’s favorite cake” (Line 27) and portions it into ninety-nine slices. The hungry dogs who come “to the window” (Line 30) and the “mutants” (Line 45) get no cake. The speaker tells the zombie-like visitors that God is in the piñata. We learn that the brother used meth when the narrator decorates objects that he had taken apart while using. In the last stanza, the speaker discloses that the brother is not, in fact, dead, and that he is annoyed by the party, mainly because the speaker made it up. The speaker wrestles with the fact that they continue to imagine such a party, one that would commemorate the death of their brother.