A Glorious Cooking of Onions

A variety of things (onions, and a new poetry writing group,) have set in course a poem.

The challenge issued was to write sestina, which is a 39 line poem that varies six words as line endings in a specific pattern. It seemed like a highly difficult task to me, so I chose the coward’s way out. I chose to be facetious and focus on one simple, ordinary and pleasant experience: sauteing onions on a rainy day with the doors open.

I am not sure why the mingling smells remained with me so strongly, but I wanted to try to capture them, in words if not a bottle. Which, again, set the thing into a position of higher challenge than I intended. Smells are so hard to describe! Can you even recall a smell after it is gone? Is there such a thing as smell-memory?

Somehow, the thing did not end up being as silly and tongue in cheek as I had planned. I do like it, in general. But it needs to be distilled – a sestina is not quite the right form. What other form should I try?

A Glorious Cooking of Onions

I was cooking onions when the rain began.
I opened the door and let the breath
Of evening fog and petrichor
Mingle with the onion trace
And burnished butter aroma rising
As drops in the eves were ringing.

More were on the cutting board, ringing
Round and round each other as begins
A pattern of infinity, sinking and rising
In scattered, sallow circles, and their breath
Pricked my eyes ‘til tears traced
Down and fell on onions: nearly petrichor.

Water hitting dry ground – that is petrichor;
The tang of rain plunging into dust, ringing
The upended bell of each drop. Traces
Of both drop and dirt splatter, begin
To unite, emerging as crisp breath
From the sod and sidewalk rising.

It sailed steadily indoors, with rising
Mist up concrete steps came petrichor.
As over the stove I bent for a breath,
Dense and pungent, while  notes ringing
On pavement echoed and wind began
‘Round the threshold to trace.

A handful of onion skins, dark veins traced
Against the dusty gold, shuddered. Rising
Steam from the sautéing onions began
To waver midair, and hazy petrichor
Stole over the floor, ’til, ringing
‘Round me, it caught my breath.

The murky and verdant breath
Circulating with onion traces,
Drew me to the stoop, drops ringing
Down on earth as the splashes rising
Pulled at me, calling sharp as petrichor.
I stretched out a hand and rain began

Ringing on my upturned palm; as breath
Of rain began to mix with dusty traces,
And I caught the rising scent of petrichor.


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