“Onions” by Gabrielle Mittelbach

Gabrielle Mittelbach


We ran out of onions again.
I searched the racks in the fridge
and in the drawers and in the cabinets
and in the basket on the counter
which offered only dry white skins
as useless and discarded as
a basket of fingernail clippings.

Someone once said the mind
is like an onion, layer upon layer,
fold upon fold all neatly packed
and compartmentalized. And so,
with my sharpest knife
and an exquisite hunger,
I chopped through my mind.

Gently, I sliced it in half and
cut off the hard protruding ends.
I peeled off the scaly outer shell.
The part you can’t cook with
unless you are under extreme stress
and you don’t notice that you are chewing
paper with mold spots and blemishes.

Underneath, the onion has a special kind
of white veined and porous beauty,
the crisp cold snap of a frozen lake,
silent and surrounded by white branches.
Each raw layer is wrapped in it’s own
transparent silky shawl made of ice and lace.

And it’s no wonder that when you chop it,
no matter how hard you try to prevent it,
no matter how much bread you stuff
in your mouth or how long you soak it,
the tears flow out like melting snow.

from Rattle #25, Summer 2006

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