These are the ways we think about eggs: as before the chickens, or as after them. As things not to count before they hatch. As what’s on your face, or the quality of your head. As good. As bad.
I was once told the story of a beautiful chocolate Easter egg, an egg too beautiful to eat and so was coveted, and so melted.
When I learned that menstruation was just the shedding of an egg, I thought that there must be a beautiful chocolate Easter egg inside me that had melted. It was both thrilling and disappointing.
Samuel Butler said once that "A hen is an egg’s way of making another egg." And so I think: utility, like my Pennsylvania Dutch ancestors. A means to another means, and there is no end.
But maybe you are a little more romantic and wish you were a German girl with pigtails collecting eggs in your apron, trying not to tilt them. You want to hold them all, to carry them safely back to the kitchen.
Once my grandmother gave me six fertilized duck eggs. I was so excited to have my own little ducklings, but I accidentally left the carton on the kitchen counter and my mom put them in the refrigerator, thinking they were grocery store eggs. The ducks didn’t hatch even though I’d tried to warm the eggs in my hands.
In the eighteenth century it was believed that human sperm contained a little preformed human being called a homunculous. In this theory it was the man who carried sperm and egg, and the woman was just a place where it could grow into a larger person.
An egg that has gone bad will float in water. There are scientific reasons for this.
In a factory somewhere there are workers in hairnets checking for bad eggs as they come down a conveyor belt. Where do they toss them? Is there a special bin for bad eggs?
If you think you have bad eggs, you can get a procedure done called Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis. PGD is an expensive procedure, but it’s less expensive than taking care of a bad egg after it has hatched.
The other night when my husband and I were boiling eggs for dinner, we found a broken one in the container. "I forgot to check," I said. I always check each egg by hand before I buy the carton. This is what I was taught: to gently shake them. He shrugged and chucked the broken one into the trash.
Nobody wants a bad egg.
This poem came out of my obsession with genetics, biological deviancy, and the potential of eggs.