Fabergé's Egg

By Elizabeth Spires b. 1952 Elizabeth Spires

Switzerland, 1920

Dear Friend, “Called away” from my country,   
I square the egg and put it in a letter   
that all may read, gilding each word a little   
so that touched, it yields to a secret   
stirring, a small gold bird on a spring   
suddenly appearing to sing a small song   
of regret, elation, that overspills all private   
bounds, although you ask, as I do, what now   
do we sing to, sing for? Before the Great War,
I made a diamond-studded coach three inches high   
with rock crystal windows and platinum wheels
to ceremoniously convey a speechless egg to Court.   
All for a bored Czarina! My version of history   
fantastic and revolutionary as I reduced the scale   
to the hand-held dimensions of a fairy tale,   
hiding tiny Imperial portraits and cameos   
in eggs of pearl and bone. Little bonbons, caskets!   
The old riddle of the chicken and the egg   
is answered thus: in the Belle Epoque   
of the imagination, the egg came first, containing,
as it does, both history and uncertainty, my excesses   
inducing unrest among those too hungry to see   
the bitter joke of an egg one cannot eat.   
Oblique oddity, an egg is the most beautiful of all   
beautiful forms, a box without corners   
in which anything can be contained, anything   
except Time, that old jeweler who laughed   
when he set me ticking. Here, among the clocks   
and watches of a country precisely ordered   
and dying, I am not sorry, I do not apologize.
Three times I kiss you in memory
of that first Easter, that first white rising,
and send this message as if it could save you:   
Even the present is dead. We must live now   
in the future. Yours, Fabergé.

Elizabeth Spires, “Fabergé's Egg” from Annonciade (New York: Viking Penguin, 1989). Copyright © 1989 by Elizabeth Spires. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Source: Poetry (November 1988).


This poem originally appeared in the November 1988 issue of Poetry magazine

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November 1988
 Elizabeth  Spires


A critically acclaimed poet and children's book author, Elizabeth Spires lives and works in Baltimore, Maryland. In Poetry, John Taylor cited the author for her "subtle, crystal-clear poetry . . . that is constantly philosophically suggestive, while never becoming pretentious or belaboring." Spires won a 1996 Whiting Award for her volume Worldling and has been praised for her poems that use quotidian moments to ruminate upon . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Mythology & Folklore, Fairy-tales & Legends

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