How the egg came to be eaten
Certain foods have their reputes. Oysters.
Ginseng. You can guess why the tomato,
fragile as a beating heart, is
the apple of love.
The egg used to
be more potent, but on a laconic
day when the spring buds sighed amid a dank
appeal to dormancy, with Persephone
just on her way back, Hera decided
it was time her mate learn to appreciate
her. She fed Zeus the first egg, knowing it
would give him a woman’s pain.
him for Leda, at least put it out of
her mind for she could understand, knew herself
of sweetness rising in the bud. Infidelity
she could take. This goddess
would be first to admit virility
has its place. No, Zeus offended her
most when he bullied and dismissed her. So
she fixed him a breakfast, served it up with
ambrosia, promised a later sweet.
the pan, golden oil from the sweet
dark olive, and then the egg, still warm from
being laid, sun shining in the griddle.
Zeus devoured it: the perfect cycle
of heavens and earth. He ran
his finger over the plate,
and licked it clean.
It wasn’t long before
he felt the first pains, twenty minutes apart,
but a twinge compared with those that came later
when he felt as if he were cleaving open.
It wasn’t until he had the need to
bear down that Hera let him in on her trick
to make the pain that much more. Sure, he
had Athena, but full grown and sprung
from his head, so let him see how a woman
has a child.
was not familiar to him and motherhood
even hazier as his own swapped him for
a stone. Growing up in a cave where battles
clashed each time he cried Zeus learned nothing
of fatherhood either so you can be
sure Hera’s trick gave him only pain.
She knew he would try to choke down
But despite this barren labor,
hours after eating the egg, Zeus felt the
sadness of maternity, that feeling unlike
any other, the inevitable, that of
creating and letting go. Hera hoped
by eating from her dish Zeus would feel
a bond but he was good at denial and
though he had felt the pangs he later would
not admit their effect and made less and less
of his first egg.
Ever after, he could eat
them without incident and often he mocked
the cow-eyed goddess, saying she whimpered
like a sotted cat. So now when the forsythia
are yellow but the lilac has not yet
bloomed, when the smell of green is light
and Demeter just deigned to walk
our woods, Zeus looks down
to one mother and kills her child to show
Hera that all can be lost, just like that.
Because life, he wants her to remember,
is fragile as an egg.
© Ellen Wade Beals