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.


                       She’d forgiven

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.


                     First in

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

any children.


             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.



Patron of all things giddy, bubble-wrapped,

wistful.  You’re Protector of Fancy, Defender of Whimsy,

Lover of Grace, friend to flattery

wrapped in dreams, emotions spun into

cotton candy. Communion at your

altar sparkles on the tongue. Mother of all

that is poufy, friend of hummingbird and

dragonfly, all beauty that hovers, let

me launch your tale: Of all the she-birds,

only you did not peck the Argonauts. Sweet

thing. So Zeus gave you grace, that special

touch, the kindness of chiffon, the intricacy

of gossamer. Terpsichore can have dance

You guide the tutu makers, the tatters, and tulle-workers,

those who mete out their life sequin by wishing star.


About the Poet

Trained as a journalist, Ellen Wade Beals writes poetry and prose. Her work has appeared in literary magazines, in anthologies and on the web. In 1999, her short story, “Picking,” was awarded Willow Springs fiction prize. Her poem “Between the sheets” appears in the textbook Everything’s a Text (Pearson 2010). She is editor and publisher of Solace in So Many Words (Weighed Words LLC). Her website is: