For My Son, Who Is Not Allergic to Eggs
I am learning to cook eggs: crack
them open against the pan, dispose
of the shells, wash my hands fast
under hot water, scramble together
the little round yolk and the clear junk
you say is called whites. For years,
I let you do the cooking, the messy
part, while I sat on the kitchen counter
silent, leafing through dusty cookbooks.
The first time I ate eggs, scrambled little
yellow things served with ketchup,
I broke out in hives, my whole body
suddenly covered in red, round welts.
My mother had to rush me to the hospital,
spent her first Mother’s Day sitting in the ER,
running her fingers back and forth
across the new landscape of my legs.
For two years, I refused to serve our son eggs,
convinced that our casual weekend breakfast
would turn his body into a field of tiny, red hills.
When you finally fed him his first bite,
a fuzzy-edged square of your omelette,
I had to close my eyes. I watched
the welts pop up and grow, the red spreading
across his limbs, spearing his torso, crawling up
his neck like the ants that invade
his plastic picnic table every summer.
Three hours later, he is still fine, skin
white and smooth, milky as ever.
The welts just an invention, a connection
I’ve imagined and reimagined between us,
wanting to give him things I can’t:
the lazy right eye I got from my father,
the lazy left ovary I got from my mother,
bodily things about us that can’t belong to him,
bodily things about him that can’t belong to us.
The Self and Others
I say to my students every semester,
there is importance in the self.
I care about you, I preach to them,
because I care about me, about the capital I
we write with in English.
What happens then when self secedes to others?
When I choose you over me. My bathroom counter
is covered with antacids and Old Spice, my living room
floor is littered with matchbox cars, my dining room table
holds the mail. For a period of time, I wrote in the closet,
laptop on my knees, coats hanging behind my head.
I struggle with where self erases,
but every day I choose this life:
my toothbrush, your toothbrush, his toothbrush
all alike on the counter, bristles gnawed, handles
touching. We touch each other and self
crumbles. He asks for just one more kiss
and I bow down and give it, pat his round
toddler belly and huddle over him like a bee
over a flower. I give and he gives. You give.
In the new house, you gave me an office.
My students sit and I stand. They give
me papers. I give back scribbles, judgments,
the impression that my ideas are greater than theirs.
By the nature of the classroom, my I is bigger
than their I. My desk at the front of the room,
my loopy, white letters on the board.
There, you and he are just a little red dot, blinking
at the top of my phone. I pace the classroom and self
ascends, bullies the others. But even then,
I can’t just turn you off. Once you blinked six times
and I could feel self retreat, crawl back down
into my stomach and sit crosslegged.
I resent it sometimes – the freedom of other
selves – the way any new parent suddenly
understands her dog is not a child, or how
any newlywed learns there are two ways to load the dishwasher.
But the but that follows is just as true.
I don’t know how to explain
that this is a love poem.
Emily Lake Hansen is a third year MFA student at Georgia College & State University. She was the poet of the month at Atticus Review in January. Her work has previously been a finalist at the Agnes Scott Writer’s Festival competition.