The Traveling Onion: A Poem

Tuesday, August 9, 2016 - 5:30 am

The Traveling Onion: A Poem

“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 its traditionally honorable career:
 For the sake of others,
 disappear.

This poem is excerpted with permission from Naomi Shihab Nye’s collection of poetry, Words Under Words: Selected Poems. For more poetry, visit our Poetry Radio Project.

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is the author of 19 Varieties of GazelleYou & YoursWords Under WordsA Maze Me: Poems for Girls, and Transfer.

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