I spent three hours earlier today volunteering with a group of people from my church at Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin. Second Harvest acquires and distributes food to more than 225 partner programs in 16 counties in this part of Wisconsin; since most of their donations are in bulk, groups of volunteers like ours usually work at breaking those large donations down into smaller portions that the food pantries Second Harvest supplies can distribute to individuals who need it. Today, my group apportioned four tons of apples into bags of five pounds each, and when we had worked our way through all the apples they had on hand, moved on to bag about 1,300 pounds of sweet onions before our shift was complete. For my part, I sealed bags, placed said bags into crates, and stacked said crates onto pallets. It's tiring work, but satisfying. (Even though the Wisconsin Film Festival showing of Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing both went on sale and sold out while I was there. Curses!)
Anyway, since I have onions on the brain, here's an oniony poem.
Monologue for an Onion
I don't mean to make you cry.
I mean nothing, but this has not kept you
From peeling away my body, layer by layer,
The tears clouding your eyes as the table fills
With husks, cut flesh, all the debris of pursuit.
Poor deluded human: you seek my heart.
Hunt all you want. Beneath each skin of mine
Lies another skin: I am pure onion--pure union
Of outside and in, surface and secret core.
Look at you, chopping and weeping. Idiot.
Is this the way you go through life, your mind
A stopless knife, driven by your fantasy of truth,
Of lasting union--slashing away skin after skin
From things, ruin and tears your only signs
Of progress? Enough is enough.
You must not grieve that the world is glimpsed
Through veils. How else can it be seen?
How will you rip away the veil of the eye, the veil
That you are, you who want to grasp the heart
Of things, hungry to know where meaning
Lies. Taste what you hold in your hands: onion-juice,
Yellow peels, my stinging shreds. You are the one
In pieces. Whatever you meant to love, in meaning to
You changed yourself: you are not who you are,
Your soul cut moment to moment by a blade
Of fresh desire, the ground sown with abandoned skins.
And at your inmost circle, what? A core that is
Not one. Poor fool, you are divided at the heart,
Lost in its maze of chambers, blood, and love,
A heart that will one day beat you to death.
Suji Kwock Kim (born 1969)
From Notes from the Divided Country by Suji Kwock Kim. Copyright © 2003 by Suji Kwock Kim. Reproduced without permission.