Tea Leaves by Leah Angstman

To the family, the Sabbath lost would entail the loss of the home day—the day of domestic re-union, instruction, worship, and charity. Family government would lose its tone…domestic purity would be imperiled—for the two oldest institutions in the world are interlinked…
Rocky Mountain News Weekly, via American Messenger, April 23, 1859


Easy to gloss over, hidden words with more
than meaning. Instruction, family government.

But what it meant was I might have the ladies over to tea.
We might gossip about politics, a coming war in the South
that seemed so far from us, men’s talk, workweeks and
Walter’s suspenders always on the mend,
Elsa’s troubled children. (And they were trouble.)

But worst was the tea, to Frank. The tea.
It meant liberation, a mind inside mine. I could
hold a cup and see worlds in it, swirling around a
broken axis, cycloning apart from his center.
Family government would lose its tone;
make no mistake, this was Frank’s voice,
speaking through an edition, forbidding me to cyclone.

Sundays were for him, for him, for him.
For his pork chops, for his tall tales. For his instruction.
A list too filled with vanities of man to axis
around vanities of women—another day that I
must drop my cup to lift his.



Leah Angstman is a historian and transplanted Midwesterner, unsure of what feels like home anymore. She is the recent winner of the Loudoun Library Foundation Poetry Award and Nantucket Directory Poetry Award and was a placed finalist in the Cowles Poetry Book Prize, Able Muse Book Award, Bevel Summers Prize for Short Fiction, and Pen 2 Paper Writing Competition (in both Poetry and Fiction). She serves as Editor-in-Chief for Alternating Current Press and a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, and her work has appeared in Los Angeles Review of Books, The Rumpus, Tupelo Quarterly, Electric Literature, Slice Magazine, Shenandoah, and elsewhere. Find her at leahangstman.com.



Detail of Afternoon Tea Party by Mary Cassatt, 1891. 

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