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Egg

by Joyce Peseroff


Who imagines the future as it will happen.

Did Mandelstam think he’d die for comparing Stalin’s fingers to grubs.

The night of his arrest, his wife invited Akhmatova for dinner and boiled her an egg.

A fresh egg was a rare thing.

Before the secret police took him, Mandelstam ate the egg Akhmatova offered, with salt.

I clean the refrigerator before leaving the place I’ve lived for six months.

There’s a carton with one egg left.

The look of hibiscus beguiled me, and jasmine perfume, for half a year.

I cared for now, forget the future.

Now what should I do with this egg.

Not enough for a meal, stale, maybe good for a batch of pancakes.

My mother said wasting food is a sin.

I drip the sweat of privilege, assuming the future will be like now.

At my age, it won’t.

My friends would laugh if I gave them a single egg.

Would my mother laugh, or her mother, widowed with three children.

I drop the egg.

The disposal grinds it to a slurry that will be flushed and purified, mingled with the river and salting the sea.

This is my lyric for failing to find one of the homeless vets camped by the river and giving him the egg.

I kayaked once past a tent patched with a blue tarp and my curious husband wanted to paddle ashore.

I could barely find breath to say No, so profound was the privacy of that sandy crescent between mangroves.

I’m afraid of my America, and our child’s.

A tent, a hibachi, a folding chair, a styrofoam cooler—who could have dreamed this future.

And an egg, what could one egg do to redeem it.

 

Joyce Peseroff’s fifth book of poems, Know Thyself (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2015), was named a “must-read” by the Massachusetts Center for the Book. She was distinguished lecturer at University of Massachusetts, Boston, where she also directed the MFA program in its first four years. (4/2018)


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