Onions

Just past frost

we pressed the sets

into the rich damp earth

then marked the weeks

as green tips pierced the ground

and stretched stiffly toward the sun

as hidden bulbs swelled

bursting through the soil,

as the tops yellowed and bent.

Breaking up the earth first

we pulled the onions out,

our fingers sometimes meeting

beneath the dirt

as we grasped the bulbs

or smoothed the broken bed.

We laid the onions out to dry,

the root-haired bulbous heads

cheek to cheek across the picnic table,

the leaves outspread

until the tops had withered.

Then we gathered the bulbs again,

packing them into red mesh bags,

and these we suspended from beams

in the cool dark cellar.

Now I empty a bag

onto the kitchen counter

and hold each satiny bulb briefly

before rubbing the surface

to crinkle the skin which,

as it splits and flakes

through my fingers,

crackles like flames, burning me

not by fire but by memory

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