Of Onions and Scallions

October 28, 2012

Still life with onions

The Traveling Onion
by Naomi Shihab Nye

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 the 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 the 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,

by Billy Collins, from Horoscope for the Dead: Poems

Only a few weeks ago,
the drawings you would bring in
were drawings of a tower with a fairy princess

leaning out from a high turret,
a swirl of stars in the background,
and bright moons, distant planets with rings.

Then yesterday you brought in
a drawing of a scallion,
a single scallion on a sheet of white paper —

another crucial step
along the path of human development,
I thought to myself

as I admired the slender green stalk,
the white bulb, the little beard
of roots that you had pencilled in so carefully.

It’s more difficult than you’d think to paint an onion.  Here’s my third attempt, and I’m still not satisfied:

Watercolor sketch of three onions



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