One Thing

by Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin

At Zipingpu Ferry,
the news photographer snapped
them escaping the earthquake in Sichuan:
the man with a face you long to turn away from,
a landscape seared and flooded with grief. He’s wailing
some words you in your safe house cannot think of, the dirty
jacket he’s wearing is all he brought away, except for the girlchild
asleep on his breast. Her face, though streaked with grime, is cherubic,
the cheek sweet as a cup of milk and you thank Heaven she has at last,
exhausted,  turned her back on the broken world. The smooth and
central magic of the picture — of our world — is in the delicate cup
of her hand: a blush-brown egg — the one thing she has
held onto, even in sleep. Its weight and curve are a
world still unbroken, where plenty was daily,
nested safe in her pocket. Now it’s a meal
or a memory or — if she can keep it
warm enough long enough —
a future

Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin, a nonfiction writer, sometime poet, and much-time farmer, tends bees and chickens at the head of Blackbird Branch near Tuckasegee, North Carolina. Her chapbook, Patriate, was Longleaf Press’s 2007 Open Chapbook Competition winner.

About One Thing — This poem describes a photo sent to me from Sichuan by my future son-in-law, a Chinese filmmaker. He immediately realized the sleeping child with her precious egg—and the vanished farm it spoke of—would make this scene very near and personal to me. The egg, as homely food and as universal symbol, grounds me in that child’s world and makes her known and welcome in mine.