Good Things Begin with O

onion pileHave you ever noticed that once you focus on something, it suddenly appears everywhere? Now that I have taken on the persona of the onion, I have onions coming at me from all sides.

An excellent example of this phenomenon occurred when I decided in 1998 to name my son Owen. Previous to this time, I had never met an Owen. I found the name because it was the middle name of an American artist I was writing about for some educational material or other.

milard sheetsThe artist was Millard Owen Sheets. The name seemed so lovely and unusual. I fell in love with it immediately. I looked it up in the baby name book and found it to mean “well-born.” What more could a mother ask for but a child well-born? As soon as my son was born and named, there were suddenly about six other Owens in my orbit. I still continue to meet Owens to this very day.

And so it is with onions. They are ubiquitous now that I have identified myself with them. Today, a friend of mine, Carroll Olm (a.k.a. “Olmie”) who is an alumnus of the college at which I work and who did not at first know of my onion fetish, sent out this wonderful adage in his alumni newsletter, The Echo: “Life is like an onion. You peel off one layer at a time and sometimes, you weep.” (But now, he knows!)

This is perfectly in keeping with how things have been going for me of late in the wake of  my father’s death.

In addition, several days ago, I received a poem from the poet Karl Elder. This work first appeared in the Spring 2002 issue of Salt Fork Review. Karl is my friend, one of my mentors, and the Fessler Professor of Creative Writing & Poet in Residence at the college at which I work. I love the college at which I work. It is called Lakeland and it provides me with many wonderful gifts, all the time. Friends like Olmie and Karl. Poems like this:


Onion, Adam’s
Apple of Lucifer,
So long you’ve
Remained your own translucent

I hate
Halving your
Transcendental self
And am off-center

Having invaded your
Brilliant boundary

Against my wishes,
Against the grain,
Yet, Onion
Any way I slice you

On the cutting board,
Rendering a map
Of your world,

Concurrent lines,
In spots I’ve fumbled
The dull paring knife,

I cannot now
Nor ever put
You together again

Though you fall
In piles of perfect
Ivory rings,
Treasure of Proserpine,
Poem in Many Parts,
Favorite of Mine,

My stewing
Gives you cause
For sleeplessness,

Your life
Extending long after your death,
You Haunt,

My teeth
Reek of your anguish,
My words
Your flesh

For I have known
The onion
Known all the onions—

I weep for
Your radiant pain.  

— Karl Elder

I adore “My teeth/Reek of your anguish.” How do poets think of these things?

I will close with two “by the ways” for you.

The first one will make sense to those of you who know me. You will know that I have been sending out a poem on the first day of the month since March of 2011. And for three years and three months before that, I sent out an original poem every Sunday. Over time, that became a veritable boatload of poems.

The original project was called “Poem of the Week,” and I even have a separate blog at documenting all these verses. Well, today is November 1 and I hereby declare that any first-of-the-month poems I send out henceforth are going to appear here, at Frying the Onion.

Lisa’s “Poem of the Week” is closing its doors and redefining itself in a new guise. I will no longer send out the gigantic group emails either. I would ask you instead to follow this blog. That way, you can check in at your leisure for your monthly poem-fix as well as gain deep insights into the nature of life, death, love, truth, and of course, onions.

This month, I begin my new tradition with Karl’s poem. In future, the first day of the month will always feature a poem, either mine or someone else’s.

onion closeMy second “by the way” is that Karl has two grandsons. One of them is named Owen. You see? Like I said. Olmie. Owens. Onions. Good things, beginning with O, everywhere.

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