Poem of the week: ‘There is nothing so bare as an egg yolk’ by Bella Biddle
An eggsellent poem indeed
Here is a poem by Bella Biddle:
There is nothing so bare as an egg yolk
Held in the palm (or the small of the back);
How it wobbles, a micrometre from
Explosion, gelatinous, tentative.
Golden globule of celestial slime,
Hermit crab underbelly swarming loose
Without shell or paper or gummy whites,
Leaves the crack it came out of and sits there
Naked. Fridge-cold on sweat-hot, small protein
Polyp – how runny! How very alone!
Lost, pea podless, so soft on the tongue… – No,
Nothing except when I look at your face
To see myself seen in your eyes there, stripped.
Having spoken to Bella about her sonnet, she told me that everybody who proof-read it “was really interested in the egg as a symbol for birth, or nourishment, or else wanted to unpack the way I feel about my egg allergy.” Indeed, while I didn’t know about Bella’s egg allergy, when I first read the poem I had the same response to her friends in assuming that the egg yolk must be a metaphor for fertility or birth. However, Bella told me that the poem expresses something less abstract than her proof-readers and I initially presumed.
Instead, what Bella is primarily interested in is not “birth” or “nourishment” or her “egg allergy”, but the egg yolk itself “as an object; the last part of an egg left after you crack the shell and the membrane, rinse off the white and the chalazae and blood spots.”
Bella continues: “You can hold an egg yolk in your hand, but you can’t really touch it properly without it turning into liquid. It’s the most physically bare and physically vulnerable object I can think of. It makes me feel a bit breathless.”
The fragility of the yolk itself is therefore Bella’s concern; by examining the physicality of the yolk, it comes to reflect both the fragility and the forcefulness of the human condition too. How easy it is for us to ruin the composure of an egg yolk, and how easy it is in turn for larger and stronger forces to ruin our composure.
The way in which the yolk ‘wobbles, a micrometer from / Explosion, gelatinous, tentative’ is therefore the primary inspiration for Bella’s sonnet. Indeed, most of the poem’s metaphors draw attention to the idea that the yolk is an isolated and unprotected entity; it is the “underbelly” of the hermit crab and it is “lost, pea podless.”
I asked Bella about the interjection “- No” at the end of the poem, questioning the meaning of the final two lines. She replied: “I liked leading the reader through densely sonic and alienating ways of seeing an egg yolk, before using the turn “ – No,” as a grammatical lead back to the opening line. The absurdity of the move is, I hope, jarring as well as cogent, yoking (haha) two polarising scenarios together into one slightly scrambled feeling of exposure.”
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Cover photo credit: pixabay