The Traveling Onion by Naomi Shihab Nye
I’ve barely had any sleep for the past three days. There are only power naps and closing my eyes for a few seconds, before I am spurred back into action, deadlines breathing down my neck. The only breaks I have are trips to the bathroom to pee. I’m so busy I don’t even have time for a cigarette. I’m down to two meals a day, thereabouts.
Anyway, here, an ode to an onion. It’s Friday night. I want to lock myself in my room and sleep until Monday, but my desk is waiting.
The Traveling Onion
Naomi Shihab Nye
“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 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 texture of meat or herbal aroma
but never on the translucence of onion,
now limp, now divided,
or it’s traditionally honorable career:
For the sake of others,
This is from Words Under Words: Selected Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye, published by Far Corner Books, 1995.