Thursday, March 7, 2013

Naomi Shihab Nye: "The Traveling Onion"

It is believed that the onion originally came from India. In Egypt it was an object of worship––why I haven't been able to find out. From Egypt the onion entered Greece and on to Italy, thence into all of Europe. –– Better Living Cookbook

When I think how far the onion has traveled
just to enter my stew today, I could kneel and praise
all small forgotten miracles,
crackly paper peeling on the drainboard,
pearly layers in smooth agreement,
the way knife enters onion
and onion falls apart on the chopping block,
a history revealed.

And I would never scold the onion
for causing tears.
It is right that tears fall
for something small and forgotten.
How at meal, we sit to eat,
commenting on texture of meat or herbal aroma
but never on the translucence of onion,
now limp, now divided,
or its traditionally honorable career:
For the sake of others,

"The Traveling Onion" by Naomi Shihab Nye, from Contemporary American Poems, edited by Kay Ryan. © People's Literature Publishing House, 2011.  

Photograph: "Slice of Red Onion," by unnamed blogger at (originally color and horizontal).

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