Chinese Tea Eggs

Sophie Zhu

Boiling water, dripping,
When my grandmother releases an egg
Into the scalding bath
Her fingers scrape the water,
I think she must be burned

Soy sauce, star anais, sugar, salt
A pinch for every small heartbreak
Pulling at corners of eyes,
A language made thick and ugly
By thick and ugly tongues

Black tea leaves, then,
Tucking my head down and hiding
When my aunt pulled those brown eggs
Out of the ziploc in public
I hid, and hid the egg in my palm

My mother teaches me
To ask the water to catch the eggs
To let your fingers droop low
From her mouth, the words,
You can’t be scared of the water

For all the times I would
eat those eggs indoors
trace the lines only in my house
when only my family could see,
Already angry teeth are sharpened

It all makes me sag now, those
Small little heartbreaks,
The big ones make me spin out of control
They make me fury,
Nearly as blistering as that water

Now I make eggs for my grandmother
Knowing when to remove them is instinct,
A knowledge not yet known, but at the very least
I am not scared of being burned
I will dip my hand into the water five times over,
If I can stop those heartbreaks from happening