Sally Rosen Kindred


Sally Rosen Kindred’s first poetry collection is No Eden (Mayapple Press, 2011). Her chapbook, Darling Hands, Darling Tongue, is due out from Hyacinth Girl Press in 2013, and her next book, Book of Asters (Mayapple Press), is forthcoming in 2014.

At the Altar of My Fifth Year


Here is your dirty swan, your field of stones,
the yellow grass-edge where your shoes would be
dragging, if you could come with me
up Mrs. Nelson’s drive
to take back the fists of quartz you stole
from her side yard
and be sorry.
The swan
is plastic, and your own. It can stay
in a pocket.

Here are your jays, their ashy wings
rising crooked, rising
anyway from the sapphire nests you imagine,
their rage exhalations—

Here are the ghosts of Tallwood Drive,
branch-drenched in their smoke-blue skirts—
night-rags of mist, your lovelies
drifting through the alder trunks

calling the mouths down from the trees.

And a doll, on an alder stump:
this should be your body.
It can’t remember me—
I’m the woman. I came after.


The sky is not an altar.

The sky’s a throat: see how it rolls
to swallow
the day’s white ache.
We’ll climb the hill to the drive
and wade into the gravel.

We’ll find the rocks you wanted.
Lie down. Roll on the thirsty stones.

These are the Alps in your hands.
These are the bits of broken saints,
their lips and thumbs fractures
in granite, sandstone and quartz.

Here are stones piled up to heaven’s knees.

I did not forget the stained glass
sliced open for your eyes. I know
what you wanted most

was church, a window high and cracked
with blood and blue,
stained enough to save you.


You took them because they looked
like church, its wet-veined, impossible shine.
They gave your wrists their cold skin
and named your knees.

Now, we kneel. The Devil holds a bell.
Hear it ring like the dropping of rocks
from the window over
Mrs. Nelson’s garden.

And the harp-shriek as her storm door
comes open. Can we turn
from the sounds her face makes,
its music wraith-red?

Girl I was, don’t listen for that call.
Stay with me here,
doll of you
splayed across this day,
swan in your pocket,
stones in your sorry heart.

This poem began with a need to bear witness to a body’s longing in a pile of rocks. Watching my children study the gravel reminded me of the first and only thing I ever stole—stones in a neighbor’s birdbath. The poem offered a chance to move aside the adult narrative (a kid grabbing pretty stones) and risk re-entering the intense elemental landscape—the world of body and mystery—where the crime, and the girl, really lived.”