Voyage: Happening in an Egg

Megan McHugh

The egg doesn’t enter into the flesh like a bullet.  Not through the back or stomach or head. Already inside you before it’s named.  Too much.

And suddenly a buzz of fluorescents but so much louder.  Too much healthy young man.


We’re a group called “next of kin,” though we’ve never been called that before.  Here huddled up to a neurologist – our first official meeting. He says the damnedest things.

there is a snake   in your brother’s brain

clenching           in its mouth an egg

     and it won't let go


Indiana Jones, the neurologist.  

I do what he asks me to do, and I imagine an egg inside my brother.


This is brain surgery—the cliché of its difficulty rivaling only rocket science. Though from my vantage point, rockets seem more knowable than the human mind.  I buy a book on the internet titled “The Brain Explained,” a larger-than-average softcover with a cerebrum in yellow, blue, green and red sections.  The back boasts it’s NOT YOUR TYPICAL NEUROSCIENCE TEXTBOOK! It’s “fascinating, informative and witty.” I drink and cry and highlight sections that suit my own cranium, a brain nearly completely ambivalent to facts.  When a group of people look at the same object, do they all perceive the same thing?

I am a group of people looking at the logic of growth.  

There are many ways to talk about how metaphorical language functions, though I’ve been brought up with the terms tenor and vehicle. The tenor is the main subject, and the vehicle’s attributes are borrowed to affix onto the tenor. This is how we communicate with one another.  We borrow attributes from one thing and dress another thing up in them, in order to better understand.

The neurologist used the physical attributes of a snake with an egg in its mouth, to explain the positioning of a cancerous tumor within a cluster of veins and arteries inside my brother’s brain.  

Shouldn’t he have been able to use language from his own field to describe what was happening with my brother’s body?  Why this metaphor? Beyond the strange self-aggrandizing that puts him at the center, battling a fucking snake coiled around a honey-pot of explosive cells - why, out of this horribly tense circumstance, did he create a captor and a victim?  Why did he shape my brother’s body to the contours of war?  Is this the shape of all our bodies, all our language already?

Has time seemed distorted to you since the death?  Explain

A person is able to state with a good degree of accuracy when a minute goes by or when an hour or day has elapsed.  The perception of time is, as with all modalities of perception, linked to consciousness. An unconscious person is not able to ascertain the time he or she remained unconscious.  Are there receptors for the modality of time?*


*The Brain Explained

I am in a forest preserve in Melrose Park, across from the hospital. The trees are explaining to me how they pray.  They are being very generous about it. They say it's mostly about reaching in every direction that you know.


Family Portrait as Voyage Happening in an Egg

Narrowly evading the neurologist, the egg manages a constant and expedient growth.  It grows quite large, overnight, and we climb inside it. We’re on the ocean, bobbing up and down.  It’s warm in the egg, everyone can find a seat. We play cards and joke; kill time as the waves lilt us around.  “Sea air will do wonders for you,” someone says with authority. The shell is semi-opaque - we can tell when to say good-night and good morning no problem.  


And just because now I have this emblem seared into my head - what good does it do to pull it apart, analyze it like an alien egg touched down in the yard?  


I’m Henry Darger untying knots.  I’m my grandmother rubbing her rosary.  Polishing the egg, slick gilded with strife. Why bother?  Because grief teaches these ironies I’ve begun to buy stock in.  How if you trace your pain back to its source, you find your love.   


Maybe tilted at some exact angle, the earth could be this clear, safe, merciful.  


My friend in nursing school tells me about her cadaver, about drilling into the cranium and removing the brain, about holding it in her hands.  “It’s grey,” she says. We are both very surprised she knows this first hand, by her own hands.


I feel for one moment, like I have gotten closer to something, just hearing this, but the feeling doesn’t last.


Classic blue, small speckled. His cranium above the eyebrows a nest, crowning a forest prince.  The forest prince doesn’t move. He lies in the clearing while women in pastels rush about, check vitals, change medication.


Any moment a hand reaching into the basket of twigs to say thank you  and  enough.  

But we are not the ones to decide when this ends.  

We aren’t even in the forest.