Uncle Joe’s Onions

Right after mass and holy communion on St. Patrick’s day
with big snowflakes fluttering onto his shoulders, Uncle Joe’s
foot and spade were turning over the earth in his garden.
With a sharp stick he furrowed long rows of black soil
then drilled hole after hole, and planted then
covered the white onion bulbs.

When spring rains kept him in, he pulled back the curtain
and in his mind’s eye I’m sure he saw the long white
fingers of onions growing deep into the dark earth.

By late April, he knelt on one knee and tugged weeds
from between rows of new green onion stalks.

In early May, knowing the work of sun and rain,
as only Uncle Joe could know, he dug
his shovel deep and turned out a few onions.

First, holding them up to the sun, then tapping loose
the dirt, he pulled off the outer skin,
cut off the hairy roots, and at the spigot
he washed the onions and his hands in cold water.

Up in the kitchen Uncle Joe shook salt over an onion
lifted the onion to his lips, bit, then chewed and
closed his eyes. Smiling, he remember the
snowflakes, and received his communion, again.
--James Ciletti, HeartLodge, 2006.