Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Joan Leotta writes


It’s not just the egg, 

splatted, crackled, sprawling, seeping over 

red clay tiles on my country kitchen floor, 

It’s not just that this last egg 

was the one needed to complete 

souffle goodness for our dessert, 

No, it’s the text you sent 

I and I read while 

egg in hand, I was poised 

to crack it, separate the yolk 

safely into the bowl. 

“I won’t be home,” you wrote. 

“Not tonight, not ever again.

Except of course to pick up my things.” 

So ends the oval perfection 

I thought of as our relationship. 

Tearing up, I grab a rag, 

To wipe up the egg from my floor. 

As I bend down, I note to myself, 

souffle can be corrected into a pudding. 

I am whole and bright and perfect 

Like the yolk there on the floor

This yolk, that souffle he liked 

will not remain but I will continue. 

One quick swipe of the cloth. 

Egg is gone.

I text back one word: “Good.” 

Because all is good now, all is good. 

Humpty Dumpty cannot be put back together, 

but I was never an egg on a wall. 

No, I am not broken.

Broken Egg Painting - Sad Painting by Bao Ly
-- Bao Ly

Broken Egg Painting - Muffet And Dumpty by Darlene Graeser
Muffet and Dumpty -- Darlene Graesser


  1. Humpty Dumpty began as a riddle in Samuel Arnold's "Juvenile Amusements" in 1797:

    Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
    Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
    Four-score Men and Four-score more,
    Could not make Humpty Dumpty where he was before.

    (The answer to the riddle was "an egg." A short, clumsy person was "humpty dumpty" in 18th-century slang.)

    By 1803 the piece had almost achieved its familiar form:

    Humpty Dumpty sate on a wall,
    Humpti Dumpti had a great fall;
    Threescore men and threescore more,
    Cannot place Humpty dumpty as he was before.

    But the definitive version did not solidify until the 20th century:

    Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
    Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
    All the king's horses and all the king's men
    Couldn't put Humpty together again.

  2. In "Through the Looking Glass" (1872) Lewis Carroll expanded the character's role. Alice was in the act of buying an egg but it seemed to move away from her as she walked towards it but also larger and more human. "When she had come within a few yards of it, she saw that it had eyes and a nose and mouth; and when she had come close to it, she saw clearly that it was HUMPTY DUMPTY himself. `It can't be anybody else!' she said to herself. `I'm as certain of it, as if his name were written all over his face.'

    It might have been written a hundred times, easily, on that enormous face. Humpty Dumpty was sitting with his legs crossed, like a Turk, on the top of a high wall -- such a narrow one that Alice quite wondered how he could keep his balance -- and, as his eyes were steadily fixed in the opposite direction, and he didn't take the least notice of her, she thought he must be a stuffed figure after all.

    `And how exactly like an egg he is!' she said aloud, standing with her hands ready to catch him, for she was every moment expecting him to fall.

    `It's VERY provoking,' Humpty Dumpty said after a long silence, looking away from Alice as he spoke, `to be called an egg-- VERY!'

    `I said you LOOKED like an egg, Sir,' Alice gently explained. `And some eggs are very pretty, you know' she added, hoping to turn her remark into a sort of a compliment.


  3. "`Some people,' said Humpty Dumpty, looking away from her as usual, `have no more sense than a baby!'

    Alice didn't know what to say to this: it wasn't at all like conversation, she thought, as he never said anything to HER; in fact, his last remark was evidently addressed to a tree -- so she stood and softly repeated to herself: --

    `Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall:
    Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
    All the King's horses and all the King's men
    Couldn't put Humpty Dumpty in his place again.'

    `That last line is much too long for the poetry,' she added, almost out loud, forgetting that Humpty Dumpty would hear her.

    `Don't stand there chattering to yourself like that,' Humpty Dumpty said, looking at her for the first time, `but tell me your name and your business.'

    `My NAME is Alice, but--'

    `It's a stupid enough name!' Humpty Dumpty interrupted impatiently. `What does it mean?'

    `MUST a name mean something?' Alice asked doubtfully.

    `Of course it must,' Humpty Dumpty said with a short laugh: `MY name means the shape I am--and a good handsome shape it is, too. With a name like yours, you might be any shape, almost.'

    `Why do you sit out here all alone?' said Alice, not wishing to begin an argument.

    `Why, because there's nobody with me!' cried Humpty Dumpty. `Did you think I didn't know the answer to THAT? Ask another.'

    `Don't you think you'd be safer down on the ground?' Alice went on, not with any idea of making another riddle, but simply in her good-natured anxiety for the queer creature. `That wall is so VERY narrow!'

    `What tremendously easy riddles you ask!' Humpty Dumpty growled out. `Of course I don't think so! Why, if ever I DID fall off-- which there's no chance of--but IF I did--' Here he pursed his lips and looked so solemn and grand that Alice could hardly help laughing. `IF I did fall,' he went on, `THE KING HAS PROMISED ME--WITH HIS VERY OWN MOUTH--to--to--'

    `To send all his horses and all his men,' Alice interrupted, rather unwisely.

    `Now I declare that's too bad!' Humpty Dumpty cried, breaking into a sudden passion. `You've been listening at doors--and behind trees-- and down chimneys--or you couldn't have known it!'

    `I haven't, indeed!' Alice said very gently. `It's in a book.'

    `Ah, well! They may write such things in a BOOK,' Humpty Dumpty said in a calmer tone. `That's what you call a History of England, that is. Now, take a good look at me! I'm one that has spoken to a King, I am: mayhap you'll never see such another: and to show you I'm not proud, you may shake hands with me!' And he grinned almost from ear to ear, as he leant forwards (and as nearly as possible fell of the wall in doing so) and offered Alice his hand. She watched him a little anxiously as she took it. `If he smiled much more, the ends of his mouth might meet behind,' she thought: `and then I don't know what would happen to his head! I'm afraid it would come off!'

    `Yes, all his horses and all his men,' Humpty Dumpty went on. `They'd pick me up again in a minute, THEY would!'"


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