The False Egg
To fool a hen, you’d slip the glass egg
into her nest. Smooth and luminous,
it gave her a sense of power.
She’d lay and then, devoutly, lay again.
That’s how it worked, they said. We had no chickens.
My mother, beneath the tasseled lamp,
her basket by her hip,
picked up a sock and dropped the egg inside.
It glowed, milk-white, through the frazzled toe.
She wove a patch that, thread by thread,
hid the gleam. “Your father works so hard,”
she said, “he wrecks his socks.”
At ten o’clock
my father listened to the news,
switched off the Philco, wound the mantel clock.
I never saw them kiss.
I was a late child, and everything
had been done, I thought. My mother ran the home,
my father worked, I went to school,
took care of my things. No one flew the coop.
I have a basket with some empty spools,
a silver thimble and a paper sheath
of needles. Here’s the milk-white egg,
quiet, full of purpose.
I had a bad case of the floozy, my father said.
Too young to know he was jealous, I thought
it somehow wrong Ellie was so well stacked,
as my friends put it. Built like a brick shithouse.
Which meant what? Naked utility? Sex
in its place? Hardly a compliment:
“My dear, you are lovely tonight. I have these roses
and candy for you. You are built like a brick shithouse.”
I was stirred to high heaven by those breasts,
those knockers, those ample tits, and thin waist
I’d fumble under the bleachers in the dark of the moon,
enlightened, well directed, easily won—
and almost myself a father. My father said
I had a good eye, but my brains were in my balls.
I don’t know how he helped to send away
(and that was how it worked) the “little tart”
somewhere to bear into my gathering past
her present shame, our crush, my first-born ghost.
I was about to write another poem
on nothing I understood, when my father
opened the door, glided into the room,
and sank in my favorite chair. “What’s up this time?”
I said. “You’re looking well. Color’s better.
I was about to write a poem
about you.” “Oh, it’s all the same,”
he said. “I’m dead. We all die sooner or later.”
Then he got up and glided across the room.
“I used to walk, but now I glide and zoom
and dart, and sometimes change from spirit to matter.
And you should write a long poem
on oblivion and hopelessness and doom.”
“Yeah, sure,” I said. “Or something larger.
I can’t say now.” I crossed the room
and lifted from its nail the gilded frame.
“Father,” I said, “you are at best a picture
of someone dead.” He darted out of the room.
All night I listened to a god damned
cricket scraping in the kindling by the fire
that kept going out, and I wrote this fucking poem.