Helena Minton: A History of the English Teacup

For centuries tea was sipped
lukewarm in small cups
fragile as eggs
held in two hands.
The handle was added when tea
was to be served
when still hot, a saucer placed beneath
the cup to hold the spoon
after the sugar dissolved
in a bergamot or jasmine steam.

Now you stir and stir
and recall the fun of an aunt
late Northwest afternoons,
peering in the almost empty cup
at shapes in the black leaves
she called your future:
a gate, a small boat.
You trusted
she knew every detail
and how those years would be
cheerfully delivered.
It was all in her hands,
tapered like your mother’s
in the rainy dark.

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