Aubade by Yanyi
MARGINALIA • SKIP TO THE POEM
For the past two years, I have been learning about love. It’s different, the older you get—what you think matters, that is.
At nineteen, it’s not impossible for me to stand in front of a window with the rain outside, clutching my chest, declaring, I will absolutely die from this pain! At twenty-three, I will spend my days heady and heavy with desire, giving a man credit for the way I’ve mapped my body, and not myself for discovering myself. At thirty-three, I have spent a decade alone feeling content with my own company, trying to learn how to trust the timing of my life. I turned thirty-six last March, and what I can say about love is that some days you make a sandwich for someone and call it love. Some days you listen to a voice over the phone as they talk and cry for what seemed like hours and call it love. Some days you rush and fight over who gets to pay the bill—you say over and over, I insist, I insist, and call it love.
Have you ever tried to perceive the world through an egg. When my parents brought me a full tray on a Sunday morning—so you’ll have something for breakfast, they tell me excitedly—I knew in some ways I am loved beyond my imagining, in a way I have never thought about before. When I watch a chef gently break open the shell, I remember my grandfather’s ribs as the nurses rush to bring him back. When I see the fork pierce through the skin and let out a river of gold on top of steaming rice, suddenly I am overwhelmed with tenderness for all my past selves who woke up with determination each day so I can arrive at that moment, standing barefoot, hip leaning against the counter.
In a surprising turn of events, despite living in a devastating world, I have managed to be alive. I sit outside my balcony at dawn, wanting to witness the sun, knowing it is enough that I have seen another day.
What love feels like: someone bringing your tiny plant in from the rain and carefully wiping the leaves dry. Someone calling you a term of endearment that makes you laugh. Someone buying you croissants because you’ve had a hard day. What it is: all of that and more.
When I hold a yolk in the palm of my hand it almost feels like your heart.
I woke up with so much love for you
It doesn’t matter where I am
I am making eggs
The sun is warming my just-shaved head
like your hand when sometimes
it rests there.
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This poem appeared in Dream of the Divided Field: Poems by Yanyi, published by One World, 2022. Shared here with profound gratitude.
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