Breakfast in the Early Universe

by Sally Rosen Kindred


In the past, things were closer together.
Your sister was just here, her barrette splayed
on the napkin. Particles of her hair
cross crumbs on the cloth. Your brother shakes
a box to hear what’s left.

The past is an heirloom.
The past is the tall, orange box. It waits
on the table by the bowl and the glass
pitcher of juice
until your brother’s hand

can lift it: his skin
pearls and holds his bones
with careful, shining drive.
You are the little girl. Held,
atom to atom, on the braided rug, inside

a yellow shirt with plastic
buttons like five-petaled
blooms. You climb
the white chair
to breakfast. In the past you wake hungry,

your hunger, your mouth an heirloom,
the rose tint and teeth of it soft
before they changed to meet the hastening light
and your lips glistened and were kissed
by dead stars.

The past tried to put a pearl
in a green box in your mother’s closet
but you keep taking it out, lifting
the dusty lid, admiring its old bone shine. Tonight
you pretend it’s yours and take it to the mirror:

lift it and tuck back your hair,
wearing it on your ear
until everything you hear sounds dark, a moss
you can’t erase. In the early universe, things
were smooth. You held prayer

inside you: you did
not need your mouth
to pray. Now grown, you stand
in your mother’s last house, between the glass
and the bed, where your only prayer

is the hour singing and hanging at your neck,
until the singing and hanging
become a starless treelight dress you wear,
a darkness turning you, turning the room
and lifting you away

from the room and away
from your brother’s hand and further away
from the raw rattle and glint of a kitchen,
somewhere all of it still waking and dimming,
the sun in an open drawer of spoons.

SALLY ROSEN KINDRED is the author of two poetry books from Mayapple Press, Book of Asters and No Eden, and her most recent chapbook is Says the Forest to the Girl (Porkbelly Press, 2018). She has received two Individual Artist Awards in poetry from the Maryland State Arts Council and is a poetry editor for the Baltimore Review. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Gettysburg ReviewPoetry NorthwestShenandoah, and Kenyon Review Online.

Photo: “Inside the universe” by Jonathan Emmanuel Flores Tarello